On February 1st, the news broke that Erik Hamren would be stepping down from his position as head coach of the Sweden national football team. The good news for fans of the coach is that his exit won't be immediate. Hamren will stay on as the manager of the Swedish soccer squad until after this summer's European Championship in France.
A Long Time Coming?
So far, there is no word about who might replace Erik as Sweden's coach-either in the form of official statements or major rumors. However, most soccer pundits will probably posit Hamren's departure as an event that was a long time coming. The 58-year-old Swedish-born manager took over the role as Sweden's manager in 2009, taking the baton from former coach Lars Lagerback.
According to ESPN FC, Hamren has been under a lot of pressure from Swedish football officials since his team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It makes sense that such pressure could take a toll. Add the fact that Erik is in his seventh year as Sweden's head coach, and a major tournament like Euro 2016 seems like the natural coda for his time with the team.
A Winning Record
The question is, what kind of legacy will Erik Hamren leave behind as the manager of the Sweden national football team?
Largely, the answer to that question will be determined by the team's performance at Euro 2016. So far, Hamren has kept a respectable record while coaching the Blue-Yellow. His Swedish squads have won 43 of their 74 games-a 58.11% win percentage. His other 31 games were split between 11 draws (14.86%) and 20 losses (27%).
Hamren's record isn't world-class. By comparison, Spain's head coach Vicente del Bosque (who took his job just a bit before Hamren, in 2008) has won 83 of his 105 games in charge-a 79.05% win average. However, Del Bosque also presided over the golden age of Spanish football, while Hamren has never had as much talent at his disposal in Sweden.
World Cup Disappointments
Hamren took over as Sweden's manager during what was a tenuous time for the football team. The Blue-Yellow had been strongly favored to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, after reaching the round of 16 in both 2002 and 2006. But the qualifiers brought three scoreless draws and two losses against Denmark, dropping Sweden to third place in their qualifying group, just a point behind Portugal. Lagerback resigned following the disappointing outcome.
Erik Hamren hasn't been immune to disappointment during his tenure as Sweden's head coach. At Euro 2012, his soccer squad finished at the bottom of Group D for an early elimination. After losing their first two games against Ukraine and England, the Yellow-Blue rallied somewhat to beat France 2-0. Still, the win was too little, too late, and the Swedes headed home before the real action of the tournament began.
Hamren avoided the sack after he failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup-largely because his team did well in the qualifiers regardless of the final outcome. Indeed, the Swedes finished second in their group behind eventual World Cup champs Germany. During one group stage match, they even managed to fight back from a 0-4 deficit to tie the Germans 4-4. Unfortunately, an ill-fated playoff draw pitted Sweden against Portugal, and they lost on a 2-4 aggregate. For the second time in a row, Portugal denied Sweden a World Cup spot.
Euro 2016 Hopes
Despite the near miss in the World Cup, Hamren's Swedish national team nearly missed out on a spot in Euro 2016. The Swedes finished third in their group (behind Austria and Russia) and had to beat out Denmark in the playoffs to earn a spot in the tournament.
A narrow 4-3 aggregate won Sweden their spot in the European Championship, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring three of the four goals. Ibrahimovic's performance at Euro 2016 will also probably make or break the team's chances-as well as determine what kind of legacy Hamren leaves behind as head coach.
Ibrahimovic, Hamren, and company have their work cut out for them, though. They've been drawn into Group E, which also includes FIFA's current pick for the top team in the world (Belgium) and the runners-up from Euro 2012 (Italy), in addition to the Republic of Ireland.
Can Erik Hamren end his tenure as Sweden's manager on a high note? Only time will tell, but you can root for the Blue-Yellow with a Sweden Euro home shirt 2016/17 from Soccer Box!