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The Sven Saga Ends. What Now?
by Mike Woitalla, April 3rd, 2009 7AM

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[MEXICO] Mexico hiring the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, who had only modest success during a six-year stint as England coach, never made a lot of sense. But just how disastrous an appointment it was went beyond predictions. After Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Honduras, which marked El Tri's sixth loss under Eriksson in 13 games, he was finally fired.

Under Eriksson, who coached his first game last August, Mexico squeaked into the final round of World Cup qualifying on goal difference after going winless in its last three games of the semifinal round, where it fell to Jamaica and Honduras, and tied Canada.

Eriksson survived the 2-0 loss to the USA in February to open the Hexagonal, celebrated a home win over Costa Rica on Saturday at Azteca Stadium, but was finally fired after losing again to Honduras Wednesday in San Pedro Sula.

Mexico's only qualifying wins under Eriksson were those played in Azteca Stadium.

"We could not take risks with qualification for the World Cup, and we could not rely solely on results at the Estadio Azteca," Mexican federation president Justino Compean said.

That Eriksson lasted as long as he did with a federation not known to display such patience was attributed by the Mexican media to Eriksson's lucrative contract.

"Kick him out. It only costs $4 million," wrote sports daily Record in November.

After three Hexagonal games, Mexico is in fourth place, behind leader USA, second-place Costa Rica and third-place Honduras. The top three finishers from the home-and-home round robin qualify for South Africa 2010 and the fourth-place team plays off for a spot with South America's fifth-place finisher.

Eriksson coached clubs in his native Sweden, Portugal and Italy before becoming England's first foreign national team coach in October 2000. England exited in the quarterfinals of two World Cups and a European Championship under Eriksson.

Despite his lack of experience in the Western Hemisphere, the Mexican federation (FMF) chose Eriksson to replace Hugo Sanchez instead of promoting interim coach Jesus Ramirez, who guided Mexico to the U-17 World Cup title in 2005. Ramirez would seem the obvious candidate to coach El Tri now, but he recently took charge of Club America, having left the helm of Mexico's U-20 national team a month before the 2009 U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament, where Mexico went winless.

Mexico also failed to qualify for then 2008 Olympic tournament (U-23) and the 2007 U-17 World Cup, pointing to a crisis that goes beyond the Eriksson fiasco.

Under Sanchez, Mexico beat eventual champ Brazil at the 2007 Copa America and defeated Uruguay for third place. But Sanchez was also in charge of the team that missed the Olympics and was sent packing before the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying.

At the top of the list of possible successors for Eriksson is Javier Aguirre, who coached Mexico in 2001-2002, taking over in 2001 after another 3-1 loss to Honduras in San Pedro Sula resulted in the firing of Enrique Meza and leading an impressive run at the 2002 World Cup - wins over Croatia and Ecuador and a tie with Italy - before falling to the USA in the second round.

Aguirre then moved to Spain's La Liga, guiding Osasuna to fourth place, a feat it had managed only once before, and UEFA Cup qualification. He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2006 and was also successful -- taking it to the UEFA Cup and the Champions League. But he was controversially let go after a slow start in 2009 and is available.

Also high on the list of possible Eriksson replacements is Toluca coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" De La Torre, who guided Toluca to the Mexican Apertura 2008 title and Chivas Guadalajara to the Apertura 2006 crown.

De la Torre's brother, Nestor, was named FMF's Director of National Teams last week after the resignation of Guillermo Cantu following Mexico's U-20 exit.



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