As an “expert on changing his mind”, Sweden’s Peter Gerhardsson, the lone male coach among the final four at Euro 2022, prefers to keep a low profile and allow his players to shine.
His side take on hosts England in the semi-finals at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, with a final place against either France or Germany up for grabs.
When Gerhardsson took over as head coach of the Swedish national women’s team in 2017, they seemed to be on a downward trajectory, having dropped out of the world’s top 10 for the first time.
The team had then been headed by Pia Sundhage, who took over the mantle after guiding the United States to two successive Olympic golds.
Unlike his predecessor, who was a figurehead that brought women’s football to new levels in Sweden, Gerhardsson has not been as prominent a figure in interviews and on TV morning shows, instead opting for a more anonymous role.
“I’m constantly chasing perfection, and that is of course to stand at the top. But I would be even happier by seeing the players be happy, winning the gold… that would give me even more,” the 62-year-old told newspaper Dagens Nyheter in June.
“Since I know how much they have fought. So the joy from seeing them win would probably have contributed to me completely flipping out,” he added.
Reflecting back on the time he took over, he said that one of his main goals had been not to be the centre of attention.
“I want the players to be the ones on show,” he said.
Since taking over, Gerhardsson has guided the team to a World Cup bronze medal in 2019 and an Olympic silver in 2021.
‘I don’t trust myself’
Currently ranked number two in the world, after the United States, Sweden were among the pre-tournament favourites in England.
“Pia Sundhage elevated women’s football. Peter Gerhardsson elevated the national squad,” sports commentator Anders Lindblad wrote in a commentary for newspaper Svenska Dagbladet ahead of Sweden’s home game against Brazil, currently led by Sundhage, in June.
Gerhardsson’s team managed to emerge as 3-1 winners in front of a record 33,000 fans at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.
Prior to managing the national side, Gerhardsson coached Gothenburg men’s club BK Hacken, who play in the Swedish top flight.
Despite his accolades, Gerhardsson’s humble, and at times carefree, attitude shines through.
“I’m an expert at changing my mind,” he told reporters ahead of Sweden’s opening Euro game against holders the Netherlands.
When asked about whether the starting line-up had been decided and whether they would go with a three or four-player defence, he tentatively said yes, but immediately noted that he had decided such things before but then changed his mind just before the game.
“I think I have made up my mind now, but I don’t trust myself,” he said, adding that a chat with an assistant coach could sway him, which keeps the other teams guessing as to whether they will face a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 formation.
In Sheffield, Sweden will be bidding to reach the Euro final for the fifth time, but first since 2001.