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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 07/13/2011

Women’s World Cup: Pia Sundhage takes a calm approach with U.S. team


Pia Sundhage, from great player to great coach? (Martin Meissner / AP)
“She gives us a positive vibe.” — Shannon Boxx

Does she ever. Pia Sundhage, the former player for Sweden who is the coach of the U.S. women’s national soccer team that plays France today, is nothing if not, well, sunny.

”It’s been nonstop since she's been here,” Boxx said, via ESPN. “Always positive, look for the positives — and I think we did when it came to overtime.”

There isn’t a star athlete alive who doesn’t think that he or she could have won if only there’d been a little more time. Sundhage takes the same philosophy to coaching. She wasn’t screaming or panicking when her team was playing down a player Sunday against Brazil — and scored an upset for the ages.

“Very often I throw them a lot of questions to make them aware of what we need to do in the second half,” said Sundhage, who scored 71 goals for Sweden’s team. She retired after the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where Sweden lost to the U.S. during its gold-medal-winning run. “I just say, ‘These [few] things are important.’ Then I throw them another question.”

Sundhage swears she has been angry with her players. It may be infrequent, but it is nonetheless there. “These three years [as coach of the team], I think I've been pissed maybe three times,” Sundhage said. Not that the players would notice.

”I think she has to tell us she's pissed so that we know that. Otherwise, she'll walk away, and then we're like, ‘Uh, she's probably mad at us right now.’ She doesn’t really show us, but later on, she’ll say, ‘I was really mad at you guys.’ ”

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The numbers: Stats and scores

By  |  10:26 AM ET, 07/13/2011

 
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