The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced the hiring of Sweden's Pia Sundhage to coach the American women's national team through the 2008 Beijing Olympics. VOA's Jim Stevenson reports.
Sundhage, who starred as a player for Sweden and was an assistant coach on China's national team, was introduced Tuesday. She replaces American Greg Ryan, whose contract was not renewed after the U.S. women finished third at this year's World Cup in China.
The 47-year-old Sundhage takes over the team immediately and will start preparing the players for the Four Nations tournament in China this January. She says her plan will help bring the players together.
"We have to work as a team," said Pia Sundhage. "And show that we are the best again. And in order to be successful, you need passion, inspiration, and like to be challenged. And I know that I have the passion for the game. I will inspire the players and the coaching staff. And I love the challenge."
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati says Sundhage brings "a fresh perspective and a tremendous amount of experience to the job." Gulati says Sundhage stood out from the other candidates because she has a reputation for winning and getting the most out of her players.
"I am not going to say it has been an easy decision," said Sunil Gulati. "That would not be appropriate because we had some excellent candidates. But Pia comes with extraordinary credentials. So I think the message is what we want it to be. We want to win the gold in Beijing. And we want to get the program to higher levels."
While Sundhage had played against some of the more senior U.S. players, she has deeper ties to U.S. Soccer. She previously coached some of the American players in the now-defunct WUSA league. Sundhage also served as a scout for U.S. Soccer during the 2004 Athens Olympics.