Hopes high for Hamren and ‘world-class’ hero Zlatan

With both set to leave the stage, this may be their last chance to shine

Sweden Coach Erik Hamren addresses the press in Paris. Photograph: Getty Images

Sweden Coach Erik Hamren addresses the press in Paris. Photograph: Getty Images

 

If Erik Hamren fails to repair his own reputation over the next 10 days, then the 58-year-old might at least take some small consolation from the credit he is due for getting the best out of Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his time in charge of Sweden.

The former Aalborg and Rosenborg coach would not want to be waiting for any acknowledgement from Sweden’s 34-year-old standout star but there is a strong sense among those who follow the side that perhaps Hamren’s greatest success has been to coax more out of the striker in recent years. Indeed, he is not slow himself to say it.

“When I became national team manager I wondered what I could do to get the most out of our world-class player,” he said recently.

“At that time he was scoring a lot of goals for his club but not so many for the national team. Now we have a player who takes enormous responsibility for the team and a lot of good players who work hard to allow him to succeed.

More responsibility

“It’s an exciting development and it puts a lot of responsibility on Zlatan with regard to how he behaves but also on them and the result is that right now we have a really nice chemistry.”

Ibrahimovic more or less acknowledged the chemistry bit in the pre-match press conference, although he spoke only about having grown into the leadership role he now appears to relish, not having been handed it by the coach.

Hamren knows the score, though. He was pretty much a spectator through much the media event and most of the questions that were eventually directed at him only came after the Uefa official overseeing things repeatedly appealed for the focus to switch from captain to coach.

Knockout stages

The 58-year-old, who replaced Lars Lagerback – a solid and perhaps more technically astute coach who has guided Iceland to these championships – may have done himself few favours with the way he talked about daring to dream that Sweden could make a major impact at a championship shortly after taking charge.

In any case, a little of the shine was taken off his managerial reputation when, after two straightforward victories, he told the media before his side’s game in Amsterdam that his players should not fear going to the Dutch and attacking them.

Sweden were two down by the break and four behind after just under an hour with Andreas Granqvist getting a consolation that can’t really have done too much to cheer up his coach.

Euro 2012

Ireland

Ibrahimovic scored just five of the 31 goals that got them to Ukraine with all of those coming in just two games that were won by a combined 11-0.

Next time around things were a little different.

When the Swedes again found themselves four down on foreign soil, this time to Germany in Berlin, they staged a remarkable fight-back with the striker scoring the first as they battled their way back to draw.

In the last two campaigns, indeed, his stats have been truly remarkable with the striker centrally involved in 75 per cent of all the competitive goals the team has recorded, scoring three-quarters of that lower total himself.

He has, the manager acknowledges, a wider influence too, with the still Paris Saint-Germain player consulted on tactics even if Hamren insists he retains the final say.

Great influence

With both men looking set to depart the international set-up over the coming weeks (the coach’s replacement has actually already been selected while the player’s retirement is widely predicted) Hamren would surely settle now for basking in the star striker’s reflected glory.

Whether Ibrahimovic really has it in him to carry the side to the results and progression both men are anxious to achieve remains to be seen but after so many disappointments, there is no huge sense of expectation.

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