February 10, 2009
By Michael Lewis
THE HOT SEAT
Under-fire Eriksson has no plans on leaving
Columbus, Ohio -- Here it is the eve of the much-anticipated U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifying match and Mexico coach Sven-Goran found himself answering questions on whether he will survive a loss and if he would consider returning to coach in England.
After a series of poor results in qualifying last year and in a number of warm-ups in recent weeks, there are rumors emanating out of Mexico that the Swedish native will be out of a job if his team loses to the Americans in the CONCACAF final-round qualifier here on Wednesday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
The Mexicans have a history of firing coaches after losses, especially to the United States. And Eriksson hasn't helped matters because the Mexican job is his third coaching post in two years (England, Manchester City and Mexico). If he is dismissed, Eriksson would receive in the neighborhood of $2.5 million, according to the Times of London.
Reports out of England had linked Eriksson to the Portsmouth coaching position after Tony Adams was fired. According to Thursday's editions of the Times of London, Portsmouth was awaiting the outcome of the U.S.-Mexico match and Eriksson's fate before making a coaching decision. There also were some reports about Chelsea being interested, although Russian coach Gus Hiddink reportedly might be the one who gets the post.
So, on the eve of the qualifier, Eriksson was asked about whether his job would be safe if Mexico lost.
"The question was brilliant," Eriksson sarcastically said. "I never think like that because it's negative thoughts. I have a contract with Mexico to 2010.
"I am not thinking about losing tomorrow. We'll qualifying for the World Cup and we'll do everything tomorrow."
But Eriksson admitted he did feel pressure, whether it was from the media, fans or from himself.
"Of course I feel the pressure," he said with a smile. "On the other hand, why does anyone want to be a football coach? This pressure I like and the players like it."
Eriksson, who last week turned 61, said all this firing and coach speculation was" not a distraction at all. Myself and my team are only focused on tomorrow. It's not bad to be linked."
Asked if he had been contacted by Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, Eriksson replied, "The only think I can tell you if Chelsea wants me, the owner will phone me. He knows my number. He knows me very well.
"I promise you. He has not phoned me."
But after his contract runs out next year, Eriksson would be happy to consider all comers.
"If they still want me after the World Cup, everything is possible," he said. "In football, you never know. Tomorrow you don't have a job. The next day you are offered an excellent job.
"I look forward to taking Mexico to the World Cup."
The Mexican media even tried to get Bob Bradley to voice his opinion on the matter. Bradley, who tries to stay away from controversial subjects, which includes any kind of criticism of the opposition coach, walked carefully through the issue.
"I wouldn't speak about that," he said diplomatically. "I have great respect for Mr. Eriksson and his coaching career. The big [thing] is game tomorrow, not the surrounding issues."