PABLO MARTINEZ / AIPS** in PRAGUE: When the final ended, the priority for Håkan Ericson was to hug his assistants and after that to his players.

This time, when he faced his UEFA U21 Euro press conference at Slavia’s Eden Stadium, he could not help but smile.

He was probably one of the happiest people in the world as he revealed the key of success for Swedish after the dramatic shootout victory over Portugal in the UEFA U21 Euro final.

Ericson said: “It’s like a fairytale, incredible. We had fantastic team spirit and prepared for lot of situations. We had a schedule in which order to take the kicks so I think one of the secrets is that we were very well prepared.”

Hardly anyone expected a Swedish triumph at the beginning of the tournament but with recoveries, hard work and a never-say-die spirit they reached football heaven and won their first trophy at this level.

Sweden demonstrated that sometimes in football a competitive team can be more effective than outstanding individuals. But Sweden had both.

Ericson said: “You must have individual skills and also learn to work as a team. I also hope that we can get more resources for Swedish football so we can do still more.”

Swedish football can be proud of this generation of rising stars and as Ericson said: “A lot of these players will play in the national team.”

Maybe the biggest legacy is not their style, passion or team spirit but the uncompromising supporters.

Once more against Portugal they sang non-stop throughout the game and Ericson remembered to acknowledge them, saying: “Without the fans we couldn’t have the energy to do what we did. We know that they are our 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th players and I hope they celebrate a lot.”

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course at UEFA U21 EURO in the Czech Republic. More information:

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