STOCKHOLM, Nov 20 — Sweden coach Janne Andersson ended his seven-year reign with a 2-0 home win over Estonia in their Group F Euro 2024 qualifier on a Sunday night filled with emotion, even though neither side had a chance of qualifying for next year’s finals in Germany.
With his young grandchildren watching from the stands, Andersson took off his glasses and wiped away tears as the national anthem played for the last time with him in charge.
The Swedes finished in third place, 10 points adrift of group winners Belgium and nine points behind Austria, and their fate was sealed a month ago when the Austrians beat Azerbaijan 1-0, ending Sweden’s chance of making the finals.
In the sprawling shopping Mall Of Scandinavia less than an hour before kickoff, there was little sign that a game was taking place next door at the 50,000-capacity Friends Arena.
In the end a paltry crowd of 11,201 turned up, but there was no shortage of emotion as kickoff approached.
Andersson’s first tears of the evening flowed even before the national anthems as he met the 72-year-old supporter injured in the attack in Brussels last month that saw two other Swedish fans fatally shot ahead of the Euro 2024 qualifier with Belgium.
Swedish FA chairman Fredrik Reinfeldt led a tribute before kickoff to the supporters killed by a suspected Islamist militant, who was shot dead by police.
It took a Viktor Claesson header in the 22nd minute to cheer the crowd and restore some of the feel-good factor that had permeated Andersson’s first few years in the job.
Fittingly, Emil Forsberg got the final goal of Andersson’s reign in the 55th, the winger adding to a string of notable goals that he scored after the coach handed him the number 10 shirt following the 2016 retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
After the final whistle in his 94th game as Sweden coach, Andersson and his assistant Peter Wettergren were thanked on the pitch in front of the home fans as their era drew to a close.
“Emotionally, I’ve been in a tumble dryer, I think. It’s very, very special, I don’t think I need to say too much more,” Andersson told reporters as his emotions surfaced again.
“I have a lot of feelings within me, sometimes I get angry, sometimes I’m happy. I’m more happy than angry, but it’s very special when you’ve done something as long as I have,” he added.
His time as Sweden coach now over, Andersson said he was looking forward to taking a step back and enjoying time with his wife Ulrika and their family.
“They like football, they follow football but they’re good at bringing me back down. They don’t see me as a football coach, they see me as a father and a grandfather,” the 61-year-old said before offering some advice to whoever takes the job next.
“The key will be for the (Swedish) players to be playing in their club teams — if they do that, then there’s a lot of interesting players out there.” — Reuters