Sunday 5 April ~
Sven-Göran Eriksson's Mexican experiment is over after only 12 matches. In fact, the marriage seemed to be doomed from the start. The Mexican press is just as bellicose and intolerant as the British tabloids, but much more influential. As former star striker Hugo Sanchez would testify – his results were much better than Eriksson's, but he was fired after not being able to qualify the Under-23 squad for the Olympic Games in Beijing. Eriksson made a fundamental misjudgement in thinking that he would be given time to impose a more direct style of play on a team accustomed to short passes and slow build-up. But early results were not good, the team didn't seem to be improving and a panicking press started to call for his head.
Moreover, Sven was unlucky. During his tenure, eight key players were injured and four more were sent off including captain Rafael Marquez, who missed the key games against Honduras and Costa Rica. As a consequence, he had to tinker with his system and change the starting eleven in almost every match.
Eriksson should take some share of the blame, however. After defeating Costa Rica last Saturday, he decided to make four changes for the match against Honduras, fielding two players out of position. The experiment was a disaster and his side was never a match for a team 17 positions below them in the FIFA world ranking.
Sven was sacked after the match and took things philosophically. "I wanted to qualify for the World Cup, but football has its own logic and results didn’t go my way." However, his agent Athole Still was less diplomatic in an interview with the BBC: "I personally never wanted him to take the Mexico job," he said. "I knew and had been warned that it’s just a hothouse of politicising. I’ve also heard that some players did not like him because he was not Latin American."
The next Mexican manager will be Javier Aguirre, who was recently fired by Atletico Madrid in controversial circumstances. Aguirre was a popular coach of the 2002 World Cup side and is widely admired by players and press alike, which means that he will get more time than his predecessor before the inevitable break-up with the journalists.
As for Eriksson, who earned $4 million in less than a year, his popularity doesn't seem to have suffered from his Mexican disaster. Already it seems that he will have a choice of new employers, with Sunderland apparently ready to give him a chance to return to the comparatively peaceful environment of the Premier League. Martin del Palacio Langer