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Smiling Sven lands on his feet

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Paul Fletcher | 19:37 UK time, Monday, 14 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Port Elizabeth

Sven-Goran Eriksson is the man who messed up with Mexico but managed to end up at the World Cup in charge of Ivory Coast.

No wonder the 62-year-old looked pretty pleased with life as he spoke to the media at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth late on Monday.

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Drogba returns to training with the Ivory Coast

He listened patiently as Yaya Toure answered questions in four different languages, including one about the possibility of the Barcelona midfielder moving to the Premier League that drew a knowing shake of the head and a smirk from the Swede.

When it was Eriksson's turn, he joked that Toure would have talked in Russian if required, gave several thumbs-up to familiar faces in front of him and cracked a funny in Portuguese.

Of course, not everything is rosy in the Eriksson garden, what with his team being in the so-called 'Group of Death' alongside Portugal, Brazil and North Korea.

He also has a major headache over the fitness of inspirational striker Didier Drogba, who broke his arm on 4 June in a warm-up match but who could yet figure against the Portuguese.

Eriksson expressed the hope that Drogba could play if the referee for the match approved the cast they want him to wear.

Whether Droga plays or not, Eriksson could certainly be regarded as fortunate to be in charge of such a talented team as the Elephants after his disastrous spell at Mexico.

The Mexicans, who have reached every World Cup finals since 1982, dispensed with his services early in 2009, just eight months after he was appointed to oversee their qualification campaign.

The Swede left with a record of just one win from his team's final seven competitive fixtures.

His next move - surely the most bizarre of his career - saw him pitch up as director of football at English League Two side Notts County in July 2009, but he did not last long, leaving in February.

I saw him in the plush directors' lounge at Queens Park Rangers in March after he had attended a pre-World Cup friendly between Ivory Coast and South Korea at Loftus Road.

I was at one end of the room with a colleague from BBC World Service as we asked Ivorian Football Association chief Jacques Anouma who he wanted to succeed Valid Halilhodzic, the Bosnian who had recently been sacked after the Elephants were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations at the quarter-finals stage - his only competitive defeat in two years.

All the talk was about the possibility of Guus Hiddink or Philippe Troussier taking over. Meanwhile, Eriksson was stood at the other end of the room on his own, occasionally bending down to pick up a canapé off a nearby table.

He cut a slightly sad figure, his isolation in stark contrast to the media circus that followed his every move during his tenure in charge of England. Nobody seemed to be asking whether he would be invited to take the job. How wrong we were.

Eriksson signed a deal in March that expires at the end of the tournament - one that is worth a reported £2m. The news of his salary did not go down well in Ivory Coast, where the average wage is £3 a day.

There has been no hint of an extension to his contract and the Swede disclosed after the recent departure of Rafael Benitez from Anfield that he had always been a Liverpool supporter. Already, it seems, he is thinking of his future.

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Eriksson bemoans Ivory Coast's bad luck

Eriksson did not have the chance to work with the Elephants players until the end of the European domestic season in May and has so far presided over just two friendlies - a draw with Paraguay and the victory over Japan during which Drogba sustained his injury.

"It is a short period of time, that is a fact," Eriksson told me. "But I am very confident. The players are working very hard and I am looking forward to the tournament."

Just to add a further level of difficulty, Eriksson might be multilingual but he is not so good at French, the main language spoken in Ivory Coast.

It is all in stark contrast to the lengthy preparations Eriksson enjoyed for the three major tournaments he was England boss - and we will get a glimpse on Tuesday of whether he has been able to mould together a squad that Halilhodzic said was suffering from "internal fractures".

Certainly, the Ivory Coast side that I saw lose 2-0 to South Korea looked lacklustre and disinterested - and it seems that the most important thing Eriksson can do is instil some unity and organisation to his squad.

"We could not have anyone better in charge," said defender Kolo Toure recently.

The Portuguese are not underestimating the impact that Eriksson can have ahead of Tuesday's crucial Group G opener.

"All teams need a good coach and now the Ivory Coast have got one - he is a fantastic coach," said Portugal veteran Deco.

But they know all about shattering Eriksson's hopes of winning a major tournament, having knocked his England team out on penalties at the quarter-final stage at both Euro 2004 and the World Cup two years later.

"This game is not about revenge," added Eriksson of Tuesday's encounter. "Four years ago, we were a little unlucky. That's life."

On 14 June 2006, Eriksson, whose compatriot Lars Lagerback is in charge of Nigeria here in South Africa, was preparing for England's group game against Trinidad & Tobago.

Eriksson had gone into that tournament on the back of the claim that his team would win the World Cup. He left apologising after another heartbreaking exit - but he is not making any foolhardy claims this time around.

"I don't believe we should be talking about winning the final," said the Swede. "I think we should start by thinking about the game against Portugal."

It's the same old Sven, just perhaps a little bit wiser.

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at


  • Comment number 1.

    Eriksson is an absolute mercenary. Fancy asking for 2 MILLION for 3 months work. It's not as if he's a Jose Mourinho or another top coach. When has he ever been successful on a big stage??
    And how the FA of the Ivory Coast could decide to sack Halilodzic after losing only one game in two years...
    So what have the Ivory Coast got?
    An overpaid coach who doesn't know the team well, hasn't had any time to prepare with them and who's already looking around for another job at the end of the summer. Add to that the toughest group in the tournament (and they'd play Spain even if they managed to get through), and it looks like their world cup dream will be over very soon...

  • Comment number 2.

    #1. No argument with your complaint about Eriksson's mercenary qualities, but while I agree he is no Mourinho he is still a very good coach. He also has won the UEFA cup (with Göteborg/Gothenburg), the Cup winners cup and a bunch of national titles & national cups in Sweden (perhaps not such a big deal...), Italy and Portugal. So that he is a successful coach even on the big stage in Europe is pretty clear.

    IMHO he did a decent job with the England team as well but I acknowledge that I am not in the majority :)

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm with number 2 on this on, Sven's a good gaffer who did a fairly decent job with us. I don't think any England manager in history has taken the team to three straight last 8 appearances, correct me if I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    He did a pretty decent job with man city...
    As it turns out... no one can be successful with england team as the expectations are always to win whole tournament... and the players are goo enough... they just choke on the big stage! not even capello can win anything with england! oh wait!

  • Comment number 6.

    Even if Sven is, at best, a decent coach, Cote d'Ivoire really messed up when they got rid of Vahid Halilhodžić.

    Winning league titles in Europe is one thing, but doing so in Africa is another thing entirely - dealing with the mentality of players in a different sociocultural context is an art, the politics off-pitch can be surreal. Vahid had won the African Champions League in 1998 with Moroccan side Raja Casablanca. He had led CIV for nearly two years without a loss, CIV were leading 2-1 after 90 minutes against Algeria in the Quarter Finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Jan 2010 when the Algerians scored in injury time and extra time to win 3-2 - and then they fired him. Twits.

    For whatever Ivory Coast is paying Sven, surely they could have - I dunno, borrowed Bora Milutinović from his Iraq coaching position for six months with some compensation to the Iraq FA. But no... they had to get someone with no experience, club or country, with African football.

  • Comment number 7.

    Eriksson's reputation has undoubtedly taken a tumble in the last few years, at least in the UK.

    But he remains as unflappable as ever, seemingly cool and in control. I have often wondered whether he has moments of clarity when he is on his own when he questions some of the big decisions he has made during his career.

    I'm sure this is what must have happened when he disappeared from view for a considerable period of time after the 2006 World Cup.

  • Comment number 8.

    Eriksson is the most successful football manager! How many times has he convinced folk he is worth more than his parts.
    Look at the FA not only did they offer him an over inflated salery but he sold them his own "Emperor`s new clothing".
    Now 2 Mil for 3 months, well hats off to the worst coach in football for such great business.
    If success was a result of good business Eriksson would be World Champion. Sadly its not.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Just to add a further level of difficulty, Eriksson might be multilingual but he is not so good at French, the main language spoken in Ivory Coast."


    LOL - don't worry, neither are the Ivoriens.

  • Comment number 11.

    Think poor Sven has just been tarnished by the same old brush that the british press pull out after every major tournament where England fail. After all there always needs to be a scapegoat ! Just ask Beckham ! My issue with both this article and the general vendetta against Eriksson is this... England are not as good as you make out. It could be considered that Eriksson over achived with them ? I also think he did a good job at City, and held the post at Notts County with Dignity...yet he is still battered by the British press for a so called lack of success. Will it be Fabio who, after being built up for the last year or so, now becomes the new scapegoat !!

  • Comment number 12.

    Ivory Coast has some brilliant stars in the World Cup squad. Hope they do well and bring lots of smiles on the faces of their fans worldwide. Wishing Didier Drogba a speedy recovery and a quick return to the playing eleven.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 13.

    Funny how the moment a coach leaves England they are deemed by the majority of us to be rubbish. Sven had proved his qualities as a manager long before he came here, Steve McLaren did the same after he left the national team. Ultimately, the only England Manager who managed to retain any affection from the fans in the past 30-40 years has been Bobby Robson. I have met the guy once and he was simply a legend, confirming all the lovely things said about him throughout the press. However, even his reptatiom was only saved by a very fortuitous run to the semis in 1990. He was a national pariah before that.

    My point is this: is it impossible to accept that when England fail to go further than the QFs in a tournament then it simply means the players aren't good enough? Why do we always need to assume the manager is to blame? The EPL plays a different brand of football to any other major league, only a third of the starting players on an average weekend are qualified to play for England, we do not operate any kind of winter break leading to injury and fatigue for many of our top players. Surely these matters have a very significant impact on our chances.

    If we don't get further than the Group Stage this year, it won't automatically mean that a man who has won the Champions League and titles in Italy and Spain is a rubbish manager. Fingers crossed we'll do better than that, but I'm hopeful we can do it with a bit of perspective.

  • Comment number 14.

    2 millions sterling pounds for the World Cup job in impoverished Ivorian country is pure greed .......

    If Mr Sunshine Eriksson is truly professional manager and do it for the love of the game he should have signed up on performance based basis i.e the rewards is proportionate to the success of the Ivorians .....

    By MadeADifference

  • Comment number 15.

    I read that they're waiting for a decision from FIFA as tho whether Drogba can play with a plaster cast.
    Philip Lahm wore one in the last World Cup so what's the problem?

  • Comment number 16.

    Eriksson is an absolute mercenary. Fancy asking for 2 MILLION for 3 months work.
    How does that make him a mercenary? Or any different from anyone else?

    He didnt engineer himself out of one deal in order to take on another did he, he was unemployed and was offered a job.

    Eriksson himself is a good club coach, where he can work with players day in day out, buy players and make them better. I'm nto convinced he is cut out for the International game though where providing tactical nouse and inspiration are far more important.

    If Mr Sunshine Eriksson is truly professional manager and do it for the love of the game...
    Professional = a person PAID the going rate for doing their job. You take issue with the wage then direct it at the Ivorian FA, they offered it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Woah - jomac08 (post 11), I'm not sure I like the suggestion that this article is part of some vendetta against Eriksson. That is simply not true.

    Eriksson delivered England to three QFs at major tournaments and I'm sure that over time the way his tenure as England boss is regarded may change slightly.

    What I am suggesting is that having failed to take Mexico there, he is lucky to have such a generous contract with a country that arguably should not have sacked their previous coach.

    When Eriksson arrived in England he was regarded as some kind of svengali figure. I think he has lost that veneer. For the last few years he has been a jobbing manager, not the sort of boss who is linked with the very top jobs, which he once was.

  • Comment number 18.

    Drogba will obviously have to make sure he 'falls' on his other arm ;-)

  • Comment number 19.

  • Comment number 20.

    Deep-heat (post 13)... could not have put it better myself. Why do we always blame the manager. Sven was good until the last tournament, but yes, has fallen on his feet somewhat with IC, and Capello's finding it a bit frustrating thinking he had better players than he actually has. So, now can we all join hands and say together... "we're ok at football, but not as good as we think we are"... there, that's better isn't it?

    As you were...

  • Comment number 21.

    In 2006 a crackers management team was sent to Germany by a desperate country for a tournament they were never going to win. These men promptly escaped after the usual quarter final loss to Portugal with a nice hefty pay-off first to the 'Oasis' of Manchester then to the Mexican underground. Today, still wanted by ill-judged African's with money (better spent elsewhere) to squander and very little sense, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can cock it up and still remain employable on astronomical wages, and if you can find them, maybe you too can hire the Sven-Team!

  • Comment number 22.

    TottenhamFrogspur I wonder if Cappello will fail to be a "top coach" if we don't get past the QF? If we had gone through on peno's he would be a genius and an England Legend.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think the Ivory Coast have it all to do. Erickson good or bad mercenary or not, is being paid the going rate given his record.
    If he can get them interested and organised this is a team that could go a long way, if Not Slovenia are in the next round.

  • Comment number 24.

    Eriksson had a very good record as a club manager, and as a international manager apart from the fiasco with Mexico he has enjoyed some kind of success. England fans expect them to qualify for the big tournaments but it still has to be achieved which is what Eriksson's teams did with little fuss. To go out on three occassions in the last eight twice losing on the lottery of a penalty shootout and once to Brazil the winners is not a bad record. If England had been lucky enough to win both shootouts he may well be still in charge. The thing that sticks in the mind for me is in the German World Cup England were below average going through a group as easy as they have in this tournament. Then beating Ecuador which did not inspire before going out in the worse possible way to the first team to offer a real test in Portugal. Sometimes when listening to Eriksson he sounds like he knows nothing about football and picks his squads and teams based on his coaches recommendations. The best thing Eriksson offers imo is that he gives his players freedom both on and off the pitch, many will not agree but international players should be professional enough to know what is expected when representing there country. I have to agree with Paul Fletcher and always get the impression from Eriksson that he cannot believe he is managing at such a high level and for such high wages that he always seems to recieve. P.S And they call Beckham golden balls.

  • Comment number 25.

    #2 Aldebaranian said: "IMHO he did a decent job with the England team as well but I acknowledge that I am not in the majority :)"

    I agree with your opinion. He did a decent job. With England, the expectation is massive compared to our actual ability. We lack in areas that others are well endowed in. It is same old, same old with the media, hyping it up so people have a genuine belief that we are on par with the likes of Spain and Brazil. We are not.

  • Comment number 26.

    22. At 10:45am on 15 Jun 2010, Vincent B Rodriguez wrote:
    TottenhamFrogspur I wonder if Cappello will fail to be a "top coach" if we don't get past the QF? If we had gone through on peno's he would be a genius and an England Legend.
    - - - - - -

    Um, if ANY coach could get the England team to win a penalty shootout then they are well on the way to being a legend!!

  • Comment number 27.

    I am amazed by Sven Goran Eriksson I still half expect him to be exposed as a con artist any day soon. He appears to know nothing about football (Walcott) and simply takes over good sides and makes them less good. He did nothing with England just as he has done nothing for the last 10 years. He was gifted the best generation of footballers this country has seen but never looked like winning anything. Ivory Coast would have had a chance if Sven had not been hired, I can now see them failing to win a single game at this world cup. Sven of course will blame the injury Drogba got on their performance just as he excused England's performances with the absence/injury of Beckham, Rooney and Owen in three separate tournaments.

  • Comment number 28.

    Eriksson is the worst manager England have ever had. I hope the Ivory Coast get thrashed in all three of their group matches and SGE gets the sack.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't blame Svennis for doing what he does. He's a pro and was signed up by Ivory Coast for this assignment. What's the problem? I don't envie him for his time as Englands team manager. I think it takes people with quite strong integrity to have that kind of work.
    I think he loves fotball more than money, but in this world where money rules it is necesary to stay cool and take the chance when and where it pops up.
    Good luck today Svennis! Du är en go gubbe!

  • Comment number 30.

    As England manager Sven delivered some above-average results. However, what he did at England was really damaging and they still haven't recovered. Although I get the feeling that this is also a structural problem with the FA, rather than simply a problem with the manager.

    He started them playing the most conservative brand of football ever conceived. Skill and youth were discarded in favour of experience; attacking endeavour neglected in favour of fortifying the defence; No risk can ever be taken. The result is a team that will very consistently reach the later stages of tournaments and very consistently get knocked out there by an attacking flair team, like Brazil or Portugal, that is willing to take a few risks.

    Now, as an England fan, I could forgive this turgid brand of football if it delivered trophies. However, it won't. Ever. It will consistently deliver above-average results. It also kills the entertainment value of watching England play. As a result, you know that England are not going to win the competition, and you won't see any exciting matches with them. Personally, I would gladly trade of some chance of winning a trophy if England had some sparkle about them when they play. At least we'd get to watch some good football.

    To see the legacy from this, you only have to look at how many "new" faces are in the squad since the last world cup and how old those new faces are. What about taking some risks with new, young players? I know, I know, they're "not proven at international level" until they're 29 and so slow that my pet hamster could outrun them. Even Sven looked like he was going to take some kind of risk with young Theo, before bottling it at the tournament itself. Quite what the risk of replacing an old, underperforming player with a younger player who might underperform actually is, I'm not sure. However, Capello is not one to take this kind of risk either, clearly.

    Sven's legacy is that England are too afraid of taking risks to ever get anything other than consistent, but above-average results, while playing a brand of football that makes the most defensive team in Seria B look ambitious going forward. I can't see this being any different in this tournament than the last ones. England out in the semis, again!

  • Comment number 31.

    Just a quick correction (though it may have been posted already). Mexico were banned from participating in the 1990 World Cup finals by FIFA, so the statement about Mexico reaching every final since 1982 isn't really true.

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry, but Sven really is a mercenary. Look at his comments when the Liverpool job came up for grabs, he did a Robbie Keane and suddenly proclaimed he had always been a Liverpool fan and would love to manage club. Well, if people are stupid enough to employ him and pay him millions, good luck to him and more fool them.

  • Comment number 33.

    SGN is undoubtedly a good coach but with England he simply succumbed to the media hype around Becks and the supposed 'golden generation' of English players who the FA were hoping would sweep all before them. With England he failed I'm afraid but that doesn't make him a bad coach and the post which described him as the worst England manager ever is just so way off the mark its not true. The job has become a poisoned chalice against the backdrop of a press which critcises the least things and always expects to triumph.

    As a Scot, IMO England were always better with English coaches and when you think of some of the ones that they never appointed (like Clough) it was an unbelieveable waste of their own home grown talent. Now when you look at the EPL where have they all the English coaches gone? Apart from Rednapp the top end of the EPL last season was full of Italians, Spaniards, French and of course the Scotsmen at Everton and ManU.

  • Comment number 34.

    England fans take being a -sore loser- to a whole new level.

  • Comment number 35.

    I feel very sorry for Sven - first Man City sacked him (because their owner was unrealistic) then he went to Notts County (who turned out to be lying out of their backsides) and now...I think he's got a good chance to be a 'dark horse'.
    And I expect he will be back in the Premier League before the end of his career.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's ridiculous that people are describing Sven as as "mercenary". What the hell are you on about? He is a football manager, was offered a job and accepted it. Ivory Coast are a decent team, and he was offered a lot of money... why wouldn't he take it?

  • Comment number 37.

    Also, this country illustrated what a joke it is when we decided to sack our manager (sven) before the World Cup had even started? What kind of preparation is that?

  • Comment number 38.

    "Oh no sorry I won't take this job as I don't think it's fair... I would be paid too much in comparison to the average person. No thanks". Okay, who here would have actually said that? LOL

    Sven's a decent manager, but to get his career back on track he needs to get back into club management, prefably a team with a stable set up.

  • Comment number 39.

    Some of the comments on here is why watching the national games down the pub is becoming such a joke. Our press set Sven up in some 'shake' thing which only we can do to our own coach before a tournament. Remember Sven masks? Remember 5-1 against Germany? we won every group we were put in with the likes of Germany, and the Argeys..

    OK he wasn't perfect,, the games were chuffin dull and he substitutions were shocking.. Yet, as has already been stated we went out in the quarters to the eventual winners with a flukey goal and quarters on pens..oh and when he took over we were bottom of the group after losing to germany,,

  • Comment number 40.

    Agree with the above post.

  • Comment number 41.

    Don't really see what Sven would and is going to do differently to Halihodzic to be fair. His sacking, six months before the WC was baffling.

    Sven stepped into a similar national team role in Mexico - into an environment and football culture he has never coached in and failed hideously.

    They should have appointed Hervé Renard when they had the chance, as he would have least stayed for the 2014 qualifiers and ACN in 2012 and 2013. You really think that Sven is bothered about the long-term future of Ivorian football? Its just staggering the contract he has...

  • Comment number 42.

    I do not understand what the fuss is about the huge salary Sven is being paid by the Ivoriens. As an African, my problem is with the Ivoriens as to the reason why they have to pay someone that amount of money for at worst a 3-month job. It just not make sense and the remuneration is not even tied to performance. Or maybe we do not know the terms of the contract.

    As to England, the expectations are always too high and at odds with reality on the ground. If they go beyond the group stages, they need to declare a national holiday!!!


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