Sarina Wiegman is set to oversee a team in a third straight major tournament final. She won the EURO at home with the Netherlands in 2017, before taking them to the World Cup final in 2019, and now she has guided the Lionesses to their second EURO showpiece, where they will face Germany at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Much of the credit went to Wiegman for his meticulous preparations, brilliant tactics and composure and winning mentality in his team.
But how did Wiegman get there? What were his influences? And what about his background staff and how their strengths complement his?
UEFA.com spoke to the England manager to find out.
As a player, what kind of coaches did you enjoy playing for?
I liked playing for coaches who wanted to play football, who communicated and had a positive approach, I think.
Do you think because of that experience you got rid of restrictions, because we see so much freedom in this England team?
Well, we’re talking about tasks, we’re talking about our playstyle; and in our style of play we have, of course, different positions; and in these positions you have a task; and when you do your task really well, then you become responsible; and hopefully everyone feels [then] their freedom to play their game.
Because, in the end, in football, the ball is always open. So you have to make your own decisions. It’s such a complex game; it looks easy when it’s going well, but it’s actually quite a complex game. And what we want is for the players to make their own decisions within the framework of the principles that we have. So, it’s really nice to see, then, that the players take their responsibilities and take their freedom to make their decisions.
What are your biggest influences?
Many people in football but also in other sports. I talk to a lot of coaches, colleagues. I also talk to psychologists because I think it’s also about how people behave and how they collaborate with each other. It really interests me, I really like to learn more every day.
What qualities do you look for in people – and in your players?
It all starts with respect, I think. Football brings us together, so having qualities, being a very good footballer [allows] that they are chosen for the England team. But it starts with respecting and connecting with each other, and, of course, having a plan. [both] on and off the pitch, and how we come together in all of these moments.
Tell me about your backroom staff. How do they complement and compliment you?
We have a big [group of] staff here, [in the] England [team], and I think if we talk about the technical staff, we have a combination of different things. I think it’s going really well. So we have some coaches who are really good on the pitch, really creative, and we have people who think a bit ahead, like longer term, where we want to go, and who plan really well.
I think another strength is also medical staff, physical staff, physical trainers and technicians, but there are actually [only] one because we are a footballer and then a team. And our approach is simply ‘We play football, what do we need, and what do we need as a team, and what do individuals need?’ And I think there are a lot of people in the staff who bring quality, just like the players.
They have responsibilities, staff members have responsibilities to you, and the more we facilitate our team, the happier they are [and] the better they perform. So little things like kits – when the kits are arranged very well, you don’t have to worry about anything [and] it’s much easier. This is how we make it easy.
I think like a [group of] staff – I can mention so many other things about the whole staff, but that would take too long – I think it really benefits the players, for [help them] stay calm. It helps calm the situation and we can just focus on football.
How long do you think it took you to learn all your lessons? How long did it take you to achieve what you need?
As a player, I already have experience, of course. No big tournaments, only one official [FIFA Women’s] World Cup in 88. It was a long time ago. But I think over the years, as a physical education teacher, as a coach, I’ve learned so much, and with the experience of the old tournaments, you take it all with you. I first started as an assistant, and I really learned a lot from the head coach at that time, Roger [Reijners]. So yes, you take it all. I just make sure I’m turned on and remember the things we did, and I write some notes about what I learned from them and take them with me.