Defeat in Honduras marked the end of the road for Sven Goran Eriksson’s ill-fated spell in charge of Mexico.
By Brian Homewood
San Pedro Sula is unlikely to be a holiday destination any time soon for Sven Goran Eriksson. Twice Mexico visited Honduras’ sweltering second city during his reign as coach and twice they lost, defeat costing him his job on the last occasion.
Having previously lost 1-0 at the semi-final stage of the CONCACAF qualifiers,
Eriksson’s team returned for another try in the final round and fared even worse, losing 3-1.
Birmingham City’s on-loan Carlos Costly scored twice, the first with a hint of handball, and Carlos Pavon, 35, notched the other. Nery Castillo replied with a late penalty but it was too late and Eriksson was sacked as soon as the team returned to Mexico City, ending a torrid 10 months in charge.
Eight years ago, Enrique Meza, who is now coach of Pachuca, resigned as Mexico’s national coach after losing by the same score in the same stadium. Pavon scored a hat-trick on that occasion.
Mexico had earned Eriksson a brief reprieve five days before the Honduras defeat when they beat Costa Rica 2-0 at the Azteca to continue their pattern of winning at home and losing away. Unfortunately for Eriksson, they have looked far more like breaking the former trend than the latter of late.
Mexican federation president Justino Compean confirmed such worries, saying: “Our target is to get to South Africa and we cannot be satisfied with the 15 points we should get at home as any accident or draw at home would complicate things too much.”
Honduras’ win lifted them to third place in the six-team group with four points from three games, while Mexico are fourth with three and will have to play off against the fifth-place South American team if they finish there.
Alongside the US, Honduras have often looked to be the strongest team in the region but they have made a habit of coming unstuck at the wrong times.
Five days before beating Mexico, they drew 1-1 with Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain. Pavon was again on target, putting them ahead early in the second half with his 50th goal for his country, before Khaleem Hyland levelled for the Soca Warriors with one minute left.
The US, leaders with seven points, produced an impressive fightback to draw 2-2 in El Salvador after scoring twice in the final quarter of an hour. Playmaker Eliseo Quintanilla and Cristian Castillo put the Salvadoreans in control at the Cuscutlan Stadium, but their fortunes changed when goalkeeper Miguel Montes went off injured and was replaced by Juan Jose Gomez.
Jozy Altidore headed one back and then Frankie Hejduk scored again with two minutes left.
Five days later, 19-year-old Altidore scored a hat-trick as the US beat Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 in Nashville.