Tuesday 21 August 2018, 08:11

Sundhage: It could be a beautiful final

  • Pia Sundhage is expecting an enthralling FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup final

  • The 2012 FIFA World Coach of the Year now manages Sweden’s U-15 and U-17 sides

  • "I’m impressed by the way Japan make their decisions"

When Pia Sundhage watches a match, she knows exactly what to look out for, having spent many years as a player before embarking on a successful coaching career. The Swede took in two thrilling semi-finals in Vannes on Monday that left the crowds buzzing and showed how far the women’s game has come.

"I remember seeing the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2010 and 2014," Sundhage said in an interview with FIFA.com after the second semi-final. "The game has improved tremendously, not just technically but tactically too. I’m coaching the U-15s in Sweden and we’re aware of the next step.

"For example, when I look at the teams at the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and the next year, it showed that the women’s game is taking that next step in attack. [Previously], it has been far too much about defending and tactical matters. If you look, for example, at how comfortable players are with the ball and how versatile all four teams are in attack, particularly Japan, it’s beautiful to watch."

The 58-year-old is particularly impressed by the Young Nadeshiko’s playing style and analyses their game in a similar way to Silvia Neid. "Japan attack both individually and as a team," she explained. "I’m impressed by the way they make their decisions in just a second. It’s not just that they have good technique, as that’s comparable with England, Spain and France. In terms of decision-making they are the best so far."

Profile: Pia Sundhage

  • 146 caps for Sweden

  • 1984 European champion as a player

  • Represented Sweden at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 1995 and took part in the first Women’s Olympic Football Tournament

  • Coached USA and Sweden women’s national teams

  • Won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 with USA

  • 2012 FIFA World Coach of the Year in Women’s Football

Japan’s decision-making is just one of the reasons why they have reached their first FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final – and the same is true of opponents Spain. Sundhage is looking forward to seeing what tactics coaches Futoshi Ikeda and Pedro Lopez will use to try and steer their teams to glory.

"It will be an interesting game, as you have two technical and tactical teams," the Swede said. "I really hope that they go in with an attacking mindset. If it’s just about keeping possession it will be boring, so hopefully we won’t see that. It could be one of the most beautiful games if both coaches decide to win the game in attack. Then it will be fantastic."