“Excuse me it’s a bit hot here”: Sven arrives

Sven press conference

In a conference room at the Ivorian Football Federation that was way too small for even a normal press conference, Sven Goran Eriksson came face-to-face with the Ivorian and international press. Not perhaps as ferocious as the English tabloids he learnt to hate. Speaking in English with a translator, he quickly took off his jacket as a small air conditioner failed to stem the rising temperature. “Excuse me, but the weather is different from England”.

The official introduction was welcoming: Sven doesn’t have anything like the profile here that he does in England. The main news was the official unveiling of the initial squad of 30 players, soon to be whittled down to 23 for South Africa. No great surprises on the list – Romaric N’Dri is back in the squad after being dropped for the African Nations Cup for indiscipline. An important player because of the lack of other attacking midfielders in the squad. There were a few cries of ‘who’s that?’ among the Ivorian sporting press, not quite perhaps as informed of their fellow-citizens as you might hope. Still, Lassina Traore, Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso and Gauthier Akale Kanga will be obvious targets for elimination when we get down to 23.

It was good to see Seydou Doumbia in the squad, who’s been in blistering form in the Swiss league and is set to move to CSK Moscow in the summer. It’ll still be a challenge for him to make the final cut though, given the competition for places in the attacking line-up.

As a final note, many journalists were pleased to see Daniel Yeboah (Asec Mimosas goalkeeper) recalled after several years of absence following a mistake against South Africa many years back. A far better prospect as reserve goalkeeper than Vincent de Paul. These two reserve goalkeepers were the only two players from the Ivorian league (or indeed any African leagues).

Here’s what Sven said:
“If we don’t play as a team, we can never beat Brazil. So, that’s one of the main targets: to play as a team. It’s not enough to go out defending and say ‘good luck to them’ and hope that Drogba shall score a couple of goals. We have to work as a team, off the pitch and on the pitch.”
“Before we’re talking about the tactics let me start to work with the players. But it will be a system that suits the players. You can’t in a couple of weeks try to make a revolution and do something completely different which they’re not used to. That’s impossible.”
“The games we have are difficult games and we have to be more than ready. Interesting thing travelling around and speaking to our players is that they all agree, all that I spoke to, which is between 15 and 20, they all agree that they think they can do it much better than they have done recently.”

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Sven presser closer

Sven was asked several times about his salary, following reports in the English press that he could gain up to 2 million pounds during his 3 months in charge. “I really wished that what some English tabloids has mentioned about my salary was true”, he said. “It’s not true and it’s far away from that. We have made a contract, I’m happy with that and that’s confidential.”
The head of the Ivorian Football Federation, Jacques Anouma, was fiercer:  “It’s scandalous what the English tabloids do. Now, if we as Ivorians want to be tabloid-people – I want to say that the truth is a long way, a very long way from the figures that have been given. And I’m not going to give the real figures as these are things that are contractual and confidential. Stop this debate on the salary! It’s indecent – in a country suffering a crisis – to announce things that aren’t true.”

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