We’re almost exactly at the mid-point between the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as coach of Ivory Coast and the start of the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Half-time on Ivorian preparations. Criticisms over his salary aside, how have preparations gone and should we be any more optimistic about his chances of turning Ivory Coast into a real threat?
- Criticism 1: He’s never been to Ivory Coast or coached in Africa
Despite articles in the press proclaiming his imminent arrival, Sven has yet to arrive. That’s now scheduled for next week. I understand things weren’t helped by the flight disruption over Europe. For the first time, the Ivorian papers today have started questioning the delay. “Eriksson; an absence that intrigues” was the title in ‘Frat Mat’, the nation’s biggest selling daily. According to the journalist, Ivorians don’t understand why he hasn’t yet visited. A source at the federation says Sven has been busy watching the players. When he does come, it’s likely to be 99% protocol; meeting the president, the press and visiting the facilities. The federation told me yesterday that the Elephants won’t be passing through before the World Cup and with Sven leaving after the World Cup Finals there’s no real sense in researching the grassroots. He just needs to work out which reserve goalkeeper to take from the Ivorian league.
- Criticism 2: He doesn’t know the players
A criticism largely voiced because of the appetite many Ivorians had for either Philippe Troussier as coach, or Guus Hiddink. Sven has established London as his base and seems to have been quite busy watching the Elephants around Europe (particularly perhaps in England). An advantage for players like defender Steve Gohouri who hasn’t appeared in recent squads but who was watched yesterday, and duly scored a spectacular over-head kick. It’s amazing how the chance of a trip to the World Cup can focus the minds. Aruna Dindane has scored 3 in the last 2 matches, the last of which at least under Sven’s watchful eye.
- Criticism 3: He’s got no time to sort out the very serious problems in the team
Needless to say, Sven hasn’t actually coached the Elephants yet nor assembled them in one place. That’ll only happen after the 22 May. The papers here talk about a training camp 24-28 May just north of Paris and possible friendlies against Japan and Paraguay. Seems tight. He have the foresight to watch the friendly in London at the beginning of March against South Korea, which they lost and looked shoddy. Anyway, perhaps the key leadership needs to come from Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure who were always rumoured to have more power than the coach and who undoubtedly know the team inside out.
So too early to make any judgements. If he had had more time, it would be interesting to see what he could have done with the team; some players are bristling with form at the moment and it would be exciting to see what a fully-functional team could have done. Still, the lack of expectation is probably the big advantage coming into this tournament. What’s to be expected in a group with Brazil and Portugal, respectively ranked 1st and 3rd in the FIFA rankings?