Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nigeria Hires Swedish Coach

And, no, it is not Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Lars Lagerback has been chosen to lead Nigeria at South Africa 2010. He was given a five-month contract -- which takes him through July -- and his appointment was announced today.

Lagerback was perhaps the darkhorse for this job, especially if you read the English media, because they fancied the two guys whom they know -- Eriksson, the former England coach; and Glenn Hoddle. Anyway, of the five finalists, Lagerback tended to get named last.

Unless Ivory Coast makes some last-minute swap of coaches, and rumors are afoot that it could happen, that makes Lagerback the Official Hired Gun Coach of 2010.

This is a title that Guus Hiddink has held the past few World Cups, and that Bora Milutinovic dominated from about 1986 through 1998 -- when he led Mexico, Costa Rica, the United States and Nigeria, as it turns out, to the second round of World Cups. All four of them.

It might be kinda fun to be a mercenary coach.

No pretense of putting down roots.

No bother with forging any real relationships with players.

No need to even know "your" guys' names nor speak anything that resembles a local language. (That's why Sepp Blatter invented tranlators.)

No need to coddle the media. Or fans. Or the federation, even.

You just show up, call in the guys who have made an impression on you ... watch them play and practice for a few months ... and then run them out there and see what happens.

It isn't the high road, of course. It's far too businesslike. Far too cynical.

But I would take my chances with Nigeria's talent. They have a batch of guys playing in Europe's top leagues (including 10 in the Premiership), and even though they looked like a disinterested, selfish crew during much of the African Cup of Nations, and several of their best attacking players are nicked up ... who says they can't have a hot couple of weeks in South Africa, playing on their own continent, and do some serious damage?

Take a look at their roster on their wiki home page. Way more guys playing in top European teams than, say, the U.S. has. More than any qualifier from North America, Asia and all of South America that isn't Brazil or Argentina.

Lagerback has World Cup experience, making the second round in 2002. He knows up from down and quality from trash. If he gets to the second round, he will get lots of job offers. If he doesn't, he never goes Nigeria again and goes back to what he was doing in Sweden. Which was just chillin' after not quite getting Sweden to the World Cup.

This could be fun.

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