The official website for European football


Barrling's gems shine in Israel


Sweden's Women's Under-19 triumph in Netanya came with a sense of both déjà vu and the progressive modernisation of the role of the coaching teams in youth international football.

I knew that Spain should have the ball, even if we wanted something else – it was about defending and transition in that game
Calle Barrling

Calle Barrling returned to the winners' podium with victory over Spain, the same nation that Sweden had defeated for his first success in 2012, but his assertion after the match that all of his players are diamonds that "you have to polish sometimes" was a case of the modesty that is among his admirable characteristics. You don't have to dig too deep beneath the surface to appreciate the fingerprints of a technician on Sweden's trophy.

"With different opponents, all with different identities in their way of playing, you have to be very skilful tactically and that's what we worked on for the whole year," Barrling explained. "But I think the next step for these technical and very speedy girls that I have is to improve physically and also tactically."

Barrling praised his charges as the best tactical team that he had ever coached, which acted as one of the precursors for their achievement. "I think we have very skilful girls so we can try to play in different styles and put a stress on different things against different opponents.

"For example, against Israel [in the opening group match], we knew that we'd have the ball possession, so that was the key thing then. In the final I knew that Spain should have the ball, even if we wanted something else – it was about defending and transition in that game." Even bearing that in mind, the instructions were not over-complicated when relayed to the players, according to player of the tournament, Stina Blackstenius.


Barrling in relaxed mood at the finals

"I didn't get any particular direction or tips," said the top scorer, "just a bit about how we, as forwards, should work in defence and try to close down their central midfielders to reduce the space. Otherwise, there was nothing else."

Barrling's decade-long experience with Sweden's WU19s offered the chance to earn the extra 1% in other areas as well, laying the foundations for the team to be able to depend on different strengths whenever required.

One of the main themes of Swedish preparation for the tournament was to be mentally strong, including dealing with the humidity, in order that the side could maximise its potential. "We used an English phrase: 'to be present', to be in the right frame of mind. We wanted to be strong and to like being here because we knew that it would be mentally tough."

The coach smiled proudly as he recalled the team celebrating with the Swedish U21 men's squad after their return from European Championship glory in the Czech Republic earlier in the summer. Noting the psychological boost that victory could have afforded his players, Barrling emphasised the value to on-field performance of actively facilitating a side's all-round game.

"If we want to win something, I want the best medical team, the best video analysers and so on, and I think I have that. I'm glad about the physical side of the team in the tournament and about the video analysers because, for example, we scouted Spain and Germany very well this time. And physically we had keen legs in the 96th minute of a tournament final and that's more than I had hoped for; and tactically they work hard with the clubs, so my praise and greetings go to them too."

Of crucial importance to the feat of winning the tournament was the network that is in place linking the 24 footballing districts of Sweden to the clubs, the players and in turn, the national association. It is a priceless cooperation that made a big difference to the final outcome as did the availability of players, with only goalkeeper and captain Zecira Musovic absent owing to club commitments. It also catalysed Barrling's quote that the hard work is done with the players chiefly before he joins the party to polish his "diamonds".


Barrling hugs skipper Nathalie Björn

Those gems now have the chance to sparkle even more. Sweden belied their youth with the power of their performance in the final against Spain and in phases of their semi-final battle with Germany that was only settled on penalties. Ten of the squad will be eligible for the 2016 final tournament in Slovakia should Sweden qualify, although Barrling says he will rotate the squads depending on which players contest the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea.

The job isn't finished for the head coach, whose principal aim is to supply players ready for the leap to the senior national team and stretch the strong education in latter teenage years to the early 20s, thus continuing their development. With that in mind, trophies aren't everything to him but judging by his smile on the winners' rostrum, he was more than content in Israel with a job well done.