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Mexico fires 2nd soccer coach in less than a year

Struggling team drops Sven-Goran Eriksson, formerly of Manchester United, shortly after it loses a World Cup qualifying match to Honduras.

April 03, 2009|Kevin Baxter

Fourteen months before the World Cup tournament, Mexico's national soccer team is again in disarray after firing its second coach in less than a year.

Sven-Goran Eriksson was dismissed Thursday, less than 24 hours after Mexico lost at Honduras, 3-1, in a World Cup qualifying match.

Former Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre, a former national team player and coach who led Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, and Jose Manuel de la Torre, who guided Toluca to the Mexican league title last season, are the favorites to succeed Eriksson. But Mexico, which doesn't play its next qualifying match until June 6 in El Salvador, is in no hurry to fill the position.

Although Mexico still appears likely to advance to next summer's World Cup in South Africa, it has won only once in its last seven matches, falling to fourth in the CONCACAF standings. And the Mexican Football Federation apparently felt time was slipping away.

"We could not risk Mexico's participation in the World Cup," federation President Justino Compean said at a news conference in Mexico City.

Nearly as important as Mexico's place in the standings, however, is the fact it has yet to win a qualifying match on the road, something that federation director Nestor de la Torre said figured heavily in the decision to fire Eriksson with seven qualifying matches to play.

"We could not rely solely on results at the Estadio Azteca," where Mexico plays its home games, Compean said.

The United States leads the World Cup qualifying tournament with seven points, one better than Costa Rica and three ahead of third-place Honduras. Only the top three finishers in the six-team field qualify automatically for the World Cup, although the fourth-place team can also secure a berth to South Africa if it wins a two-match playoff with the fifth-place team from South America.

Eriksson was hired last June to replace former Mexican star Hugo Sanchez, who was fired after Mexico's under-23 team failed to make the field for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And he came to Mexico with a heady resume, having formerly headed Manchester City and the English national team.

But the 61-year-old Swede got off to a rough start when he included four naturalized citizens on the national team roster, a move that stirred controversy in Mexico and cost Eriksson support in the federation.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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