Sven Goran Eriksson’s days as Mexico national coach could be numbered following another defeat by the United States.
By Brian Homewood
When Sven Goran Eriksson was appointed Mexico coach last year, critics feared he would not have enough time to get to know the idiosyncrasies of the country’s football or prepare himself for the difficulties of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
“It has to be someone who knows Mexican football, who knows the Mexican players, the lives of the Mexican players and who knows the CONCACAF world cup qualifiers, which are very different from Europe,” Jared Borgetti, Mexico’s highest international scorer, said at the time.
Barely six months later and Borgetti appears to have been spot on. Eriksson has failed to rid Mexico of their inferiority complex when facing arch-rivals the United States, his team have lost important World Cup qualifiers in Central America and the Caribbean and the Swede has appeared perplexed by some of the goings-on around him.
His latest blow was last week’s 2-0 defeat to the US in wet and windy Columbus, an inconvenient venue chosen by the North Americans for having one of the lowest concentrations of Mexican immigrants in the country.
The match kicked off Mexico’s campaign in the final stage of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament and defeat has increased concern that they might not even qualify for the World Cup – something they last contrived to do in 1982 when El Salvador and Honduras represented the region.
It was the fifth time in a row Mexico have failed to beat the U.S. and their 11th away game without success against their neighbours. And it was all too familiar. Mexico went behind to a goal from a set piece, Rafael Marquez lost his temper and was sent off (as he was in the 2002 World Cup match which the US won) and Oswaldo Sanchez was at fault for one of the goals. And there was a scrap in the players’ tunnel after the Mexicans were offended by US players “over-celebrating.”
Eriksson later got the dreaded vote of confidence from the national teams’ committee which is headed by Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara, the man behind his appointment.
“Sven cannot have his head on a guillotine. He has to work with confidence and we are giving it to him. We are no threatening him,” said Justino Compean, president of the Mexican federation.
But their next matches in late March are far from straightforward – at home to Costa Rica, who in 2001 became the first team to win a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca, and away to Honduras, who have already beaten Mexico in an earlier stage of the competition.
Failure in those two games could prompt the federation to change their minds – a choice they might find more tempting now that Javier Aguirre has left Atletico Madrid.
Mexico made a good enough start under Eriksson, reeling off home victories against Honduras, Jamaica and Canada in the World Cup qualifiers. But things went wrong on their travels.
They were out muscled by Jamaica in Kingston, held 2-2 by Canada in Edmonton and beaten 1-0 by Honduras in San Pedro Sula Friendly defeats against Chile and Sweden have worsened the situation.
The Swede has also found himself in the middle of the row over naturalised players which came to a head when he picked four “foreigners” in his squad for a friendly against Sweden –Argentinian-born Matias Vuoso and Lucas Ayala and Brazilian-born Antonio Naelson and Leandro Augusto.
If that is not enough, Eriksson has found himself short of international class players. Against the U.S., he was forced to call up several forwards – Omar Bravo, Giovani dos Santos, Nery Castillo and Guillermo Franco – who, for various reasons, have seen almost no recent action with their respective European clubs
South Africa still seems a long way away.