Connect with us

2023 Women's World Cup

As World Cup nears, Sweden’s influence over women’s soccer coaching remains

Pia Sundhage leads Brazil and Tony Gustavsson leads Australia, but the history spans decades

No other nation has impacted the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as much as Sweden. At least, not from a coaching perspective.

In the tournament’s history up to and including this year’s edition, a total of five Swedish coaches have led non-Swedish national teams. The only country with greater representation in this sense is England, with seven coaches. That English influence has been limited mostly to Canada (John Herdman and Bev Priestman) and New Zealand (Herdman, Dave Boardman and Tony Readings). Sweden’s influence, on the other hand, has spread all over the globe, taking in almost every FIFA confederation.

Sweden is a country of around 10.5 million people. Its soccer teams, men and women, have never won a World Cup. Just how did it come to have such a strong coaching tradition? What is their legacy? To begin answering these questions, we must rewind to the 1980s, to a time when women’s soccer was on the cusp of a new era of competition.

UEFA launched its first tournament for women’s national teams in 1980. Qualification eventually began in 1982 for an event—known initially as the European Competition for Women’s Football—to be held in 1984. Sweden went on to win what is now recognized as the inaugural European Women’s Football Championship, beating England on penalties after a two-legged final.

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long
Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.

Your account


More in 2023 Women's World Cup