Old hat for Eriksson

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Sven-Goran Eriksson remembers being in a jackpot like this once before.

It was back when he was coaching England in World Cup qualifying.

Now the coach of Mexico, he was getting a good grilling from four dozen members of the Mexican media yesterday at a team press conference at Sutton Place, when your correspondent, one of the four members of the Canadian media, asked the question.

"I easily remember one," he laughed of a World Cup qualifying loss with England that compared to the one Mexico suffered on the weekend in Jamaica.

"It was to Northern Ireland. If you lose to Northern Ireland like that, people want to kill you."

Being a soccer coach can be a risky business.

"A lot of people want my head on the platter," he admitted of the current condition of the populace south of the Rio Grande.

"I don't expect people to say I did a wonderful job. You have to take the knocks and go on to the next game."

What we're dealing with here is a Canada-Mexico World Cup qualifying game tonight at Commonwealth Stadium in which Eriksson is the most famous face involved. It is a game, you may be surprised to learn, which suddenly has a measure of international intrigue.

PAYING ATTENTION

The world will be paying attention because Eriksson, one of the most famous soccer coaches on the planet, the Swede who coached England in the last two World Cups and Manchester City in the English Premiership last year, has managed to get himself in a bit of a sticky wicket in his new job as coach of Mexico.

Ironically, it is of no interest to most fans in the northern nation which was again given no reason to pay attention to their national soccer squad that achieved mathematical elimination in only their fourth game Saturday in Honduras.

But it is suddenly of interest to the soccer world because it shockingly has become meaningful to Mexico.

The mighty Mexicans, who have played in the last four World Cups and in 13 of the 18 World Cups overall, are a team in a tad of trouble after the loss to Jamaica in Kingston. They desperately need a win in what may be minus-five-degree temperatures tonight.

Yesterday, in the first chance for the Mexican media to grill Eriksson since the 1-0 loss in Kingston, the coach, who used to keep the British tabloids and paparazzi in business with his controversial lifestyle escorting gorgeous young women around London, was a study.

FLUENT IN SPANISH

The Swede, who surprised a lot of people not only by taking the Mexican job but by so quickly becoming fluent in Spanish, answered all their questions in Spanish.

"We had no initiative. We gave the initiative to the Jamaicans. It was a bad experience against Jamaica. We didn't play at the level we normally play. We played bad. It had nothing to do with anything else. We just played a bad game. It was our fault. We're not blaming anyone else," were the words relayed by an interpreter.

Eriksson promised the Mexican media mob that it will be a different sombrero squad going against Canada tonight.

"I have talked to my players and we do not want to play that way again. We can not afford to have that kind of game against Canada. We have to change our attitude. It's going to be different.

"We are fortunate to have this match to play so soon after that (Jamaica) match. For certain, we're going to play the game. I feel confident Mexico is going to play better.

"I am at ease that we are going to achieve our qualifying (tonight)," he said of moving on to next year's six team home-and-home tournament from which three COCONCAF teams proceed to the South Africa 2010 World Cup.

"It is a chance to show the real Mexico, not the Mexico you saw Saturday," he guaranteed. "Now Mexico will play like Mexicans."

When it was over, Eriksson said it may not have looked like it as he performed his Mexican hat dance with the nation's media firing their bullets at his boots.

But he's enjoying what he swears is a most enriching experience.

"I'm enjoying everything. So far, I love it. I don't like it, I love it. I was extremely happy and proud of the performance of the team in our first three games. I like the country. I like the players. Well, I didn't like them so much a couple of days ago, but ...

"I'm extremely happy. And I'll be more happy at 9 p.m. when we qualify for the final stage of World Cup qualifying."


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