Monday, March 29, 2010

Ivory Coast Picks Sven-Goran

Hey, what was the rush? Ivory Coast finally settled on a coach for South Africa 2010, which begins in all of 74 days. And it is the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, best known as England's boss at two World Cups.

He has more than two months to figure out the Elephants and point them toward the correct goal.

What? You mean he never did figure out Mexico in 10 months running El Tri?


This has the feel of one of those marriages made in ... hell.

Guus Hiddink would have been the perfect guy for this job. A month ago. Bora Milutinovic, even.

Sven-Goran just gives off a vibe that he may not be able to coach outside Europe. Something kind of stuffy and mechanical and joyless about him that seems to say, "Let him coach a team from some cold, wet country. Or maybe Italy."

Ivory Coast is wet, but it's never cold.

It will be interesting to see how he gets along.

To be sure, Ivory Coast has talent. Just a few months ago, the Elephants were the fashionable choice as the "African team that will make a deep run in 2010."

Then came the draw into the official 2010 World Cup "Group of Death," a quartet that includes Brazil and Portugal (gulp). Followed by a spotty performance in the Cup of African Nations, followed by this really, really drawn-out search for a mercenary coach.

Hiddink was caught between commitments to Russia (leaving) and Turkey (about to arrive). So he fell out. And by the time Ivory Coast finished its dithering, Sven-Goran apparently looked as good as anyone else.

At least it doesn't have to last long. Ivory Coast could be eliminated as early as June 20, the day it plays Brazil. After opening with Portugal on June 15. Two defeats, and it could be buried even before it gets the eminently beatable North Koreans on June 25.

Did we mention Ivory Coast has talent? Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue ... all of whom play in England or Spain.

Anyway, Sven-Goran needs to get a look at these guys in the flesh, firm up the defense, figure out a way to get a result from Portugal or Brazil, and perhaps he can make some African history.

More likely, we're thinking, he will not. And he may already be back in Europe by the time Ivory Coast plays North Korea on June 25 to wrap up the group stage.
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