Eriksson takes over as Mexico coach

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was named as the new Mexico coach on Tuesday the day after leaving Manchester City.

Former Manchester City's coach Sven-Goran Eriksson leaves the pitch after a friendly football match against South China Athletics Association Team at Hong Kong stadium May 22, 2008. Eriksson was named as the new coach of Mexico on Tuesday, a federation official said. REUTERS/Victor Fraile

“I’m very proud to be the coach of the Mexican national team,” the former England coach told reporters in a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese.

“I accepted because it’s a big challenge. Our target is the World Cup and to try and do better than last time.”

“Obviously, I don’t have a deep knowledge of Mexican football but that is something I’m going to change quickly....Like any coach who changes country, I will have to work and that doesn’t bother me.”

Eriksson parted company with Manchester City after leading them to a respectable ninth place in the Premier League.

The 60-year-old Swede’s appointment was approved by the owners of the country’s 18 first division clubs, who make up the Mexican federation’s national teams committee.

“It’s unanimous. Eriksson has been accepted by all the owners,” Guadalajara president Jorge Vergara told reporters.

Eriksson was initially the third choice behind Atletico Madrid’s Javier Aguirre, who led Mexico at the 2002 World Cup, and Portugal’s Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

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The Swede, the first foreigner to coach England, replaces Hugo Sanchez who was fired in March after the Under-23 team, which he also coached, failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Sanchez, widely regarded as the finest player Mexico has produced, had been in charge for only 16 months.

Mexico habitually reach the knockout stages at the World Cup but have never gone beyond the quarter-finals. They have been eliminated in the last 16 at each of the last four World Cups.

Eriksson will take over following the two-leg preliminary round World Cup qualifier against Belize this month, where interim coach Jesus Ramirez will be at the helm.

Ramirez will also be in charge for this week’s friendlies against Argentina and Peru, both in the United States.

Assuming Mexico overcame their tiny neighbours, Eriksson will have less than three months before the group stage of the tortuous CONCACAF World Cup qualifying competition gets under way.

Last week, several leading Mexican players said that it was not the right time for a European coach to take over the team.

Jared Borgetti, scorer of a record 43 goals for Mexico, said they needed a local coach, familiar with the hostile conditions in Central America.

However, midfielder Andres Guardado backed the appointment.

“He has great experience, it’s not just anyone who has a curriculum like his,” the Deportivo Coruna player told W Radio.

Eriksson promised that the language barrier would not get in the way.

“As a Swede and having worked in various countries, I have learned Italian, Portuguese and English... and in the next three months, I will be speaking acceptable Spanish,” he said.

Writing by Brian Homewood in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Ed Osmond