Eriksson becomes new Mexico coach

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was chosen as the new coach of the Mexican national team on Tuesday, becoming the ninth foreigner to hold the post and seventh from Europe.

The 60-year-old Swede was elected in an unanimous vote by the owners of Mexico’s 18 first-division clubs, and replaces Hugo Sanchez, who was dismissed in April after failing to qualify the country’s under-23 side for the Olympics.

“I want to thank the owners and the Mexican federation for their trust,” Eriksson said, reading a statement in Spanish. “I’m very happy to be the manager. I accepted because it is a big challenge.
Mexico is a big country. Our goal, everybody’s goal is to play in the World Cup in 2010. I’ll try to do better than in the past.”

Mexican Football Federation President Justino Compean said Eriksson’s contract would last until 2010, but the economic terms were not disclosed.

Eriksson becomes the first foreign coach since Serbian Bora Milutinovic, who resigned in 1997 from his second stint in charge of the team. Besides Milutinovic, Mexico also has had as manager two Spaniards, two Hungarians and an Englishman.

Several of Mexico’s regulars, including all-time leading scorer Jared Borgetti, had previously expressed doubts about Eriksson.

“This is not the time to hire a European coach, because if you do that, you are not thinking in soccer terms,” Borgetti said.

Some, including PSV Eindhoven defender Carlos Salcido, argued the language barrier could be a problem. But Eriksson—who speaks five languages—said he was confident he could learn Spanish and win over skeptics.

“That means that the challenge is even bigger, is up to me to convince the players that I’m the right man for the job,” Eriksson said. “It’s very easy. I’m Swedish. I managed to do an OK job in England, Portugal and Italy. After learning Portuguese and Italian, you have to be very stupid not to be able to learn Spanish.”

The Mexican federation announced that Eriksson would fly to the United States to observe Mexico’s friendlies against Argentina on Wednesday in San Diego, and against Peru in Chicago on Sunday.

He also will attend Mexico’s opening World Cup qualifying matches against Belize on June 15 and 21 before going back for a few days to Manchester, England, where he spent the last season as manager of Manchester City FC. He will return to Mexico City the first week of July.

Jesus “Chucho” Ramirez, who coached Mexico’s youth side to the U17 World Cup title in Peru 2005, has been acting as interim manager since Sanchez’s dismissal and will be in charge until Eriksson returns in July.

“I will have better ideas [about the Mexican players] after these four games,” Eriksson said. “Right now I do not want to talk about players, or style of play.

“Please respect that. I don’t think that is very professional to talk about a team that has a manager.”

Mexico’s goal is to return to World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 1986, when it hosted the quadrennial championship and was coached by Milutinovic. It lost Germany on penalty kicks in its fifth game of the tournament.

“That’s everybody’s dream, the players, the coaches,” Eriksson said.

“First we have to qualify [for the World Cup], then we can begin to talk about that famous fifth game. I think we are going to do well.” - Sapa-AP

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