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Can it get any worse for Eriksson in Mexico?
Whichever way he turns, Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose team face his native Sweden in a friendly on Wednesday, runs into trouble.
If he looks to Europe for players, Eriksson will find most Mexicans either injured or warming the bench at their respective clubs. Previously seen as a chance to bring a more competitive and professional attitude to the national side, the export of Mexican players has become another headache for the national coach.
That leaves Eriksson with the Mexican championship — but here most of the top players are foreigners. Toluca won the most recent domestic title in December thanks largely to the exploits of their 39-year-old goalkeeper Hernan Cristante, born in Argentina, a stingy defence marshalled by Paraguayan Paulo da Silva and an attack led by Chilean Hector Mancilla, the championship’s top scorer (in previous championships, the topscorers were Humberto Suazo, another Chilean, and Alfredo Moreno, an Argentine).
Many of Mexico’s foreigners have enjoyed their stay so much that they have settled down, raised families and taken out Mexican nationality. But this has brought Eriksson yet another dilemma. Four members of his squad to face Sweden were born outside Mexico, bringing howls of protest from the Mexican media and even members of his own squad.
“I think that if they have quality and a Mexican passport, they have to be in the Mexican national team,” said a bemused Eriksson. “Nobody told me this was prohibited.”
Mexico’s last three competitive games have produced defeats against Honduras and Jamaica and a draw in Canada. In just over two weeks’ time, they kick off the final stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, a six-team mini-league, with a match away to bitter rivals United States, a team they have only beaten once in their last nine outings. Eriksson’s problems have already started with Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez suffering an injury which could keep him out of the tie.
Could Mexico actually miss out on the World Cup? The way things are at the moment, it seems possible.
If they were to lose to the U.S. and draw at home, lose in Costa Rica, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago (Mexico have an atrocious record in the Caribbean) and drop a couple more points elsewhere, they could easily finish fourth in the six-team group. And that would condemn them to a two-leg play off against the fifth side in South America, when anything could happen.
PHOTO: Sven-Goran Eriksson of Sweden looks during a Mexico practice session in Mexico City Jan. 20, 2009. REUTERS/Felipe Leon