Before every game, Thomas Dennerby gives a sign to his family that he is thinking about them. He deliberately kisses a silver ring which is attached to a bracelet on his wrist. The ring is inscribed: ‘Amor vincit omnia’ or quite simply ‘Love conquers all.’ The final time that the 51-year-old Swede will perform the ritual will be in Sinsheim on Saturday when the Blagult battle against France for the bronze medal at Germany 2011.
It is sometimes the match which is described as ‘the game no-one wants to play in’, but Dennerby is hoping that come the final whistle his side can snatch a place on the podium ahead of his fellow Europeans.
“In my position, the absolute best thing I can do for the team now is to stay happy, get the girls feeling fine again and give them self-confidence back,” he told FIFA.com. “I need to get into their minds that we’re playing for the bronze medal and we really want to win the game. If we do that, we will be a success back in Sweden, as we’d be No3 in the world. So it’s a very important game and we have to be as focused as we were earlier in the tournament.
“We won four games in a row and we’ve played good football. After the France game, I hope I can say that we have won five and lost one. That’s the situation, of course, when you have some time to reflect after the tournament you think it’s a success to take the bronze medal, but after the game against Japan that wasn’t much of a consolation.
“If you play at your highest level and somebody beats you, you can say ‘OK, you were absolutely better than we were. We played at our maximum level but you have a level that we can’t reach.’ Then it’s easier to take, if you know that you can’t do any better. It’s harder when it happens like it did in the semi-final. We were not at our best. When you’re at this level, you always want to win. It’s not often you’re just one game from a World Cup final."
After the France game, I hope I can say that we have won five and lost one.
Japan limited Sweden to just two shots on goal during the semi-final in Frankfurt, with Lyon’s Lotta Schelin starved of chances by the industrious Asians. The Sweden forward, who was not 100 per cent fit on Wednesday, is desperate to get one over a team which includes so many club team-mates.
“Lotta has a lot of friends in the French team,” continued Dennerby. “I know that they have a lot of respect for her. When I used to talk with Bruno Bini, he’d say ‘I want Lotta to be French!’ They know what she can do and hopefully in two days she’ll be feeling better from her cold.
“I think Bruno’s done a fantastic job with the French team. One of the problems they had in the past is that even in games when they had a lot of possession, and created chances, from nowhere they would concede a goal. But now they are a solid, well-organised team with a fantastic midfield.”
Dennerby will once again be without his midfield talisman and captain, Caroline Seger for the match with a calf injury. Seger was forced to pull out of the semi-final at a late stage and now faces a few weeks of rehabilitation before returning to full fitness.
The game in Sinsheim sees a meeting between two of Europe’s three qualifiers for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in London 2012, with the Swedish coach already excited about what the Games have in store.
“Of course we’re looking forward to it - knowing that we’re going to play the Olympics in 2012 in some great stadiums across the UK,” he said. “Plus, it’s so important for women’s football in Sweden to know that we’re always there when a big tournament takes place. The young girls back in Sweden can see their role models. And it’s also important for the Swedish league because if you get success at the World Cup, people will want to come and see the girls playing.”