Eriksson dreaming of England showdown

Sven-Goran Eriksson has spoken of his excitement at being appointed as coach of the Ivory Coast for the World Cup and of his dream of meeting England in the final.

The 62-year-old former England and Manchester City manager is confident that the class of players in the Ivory Coast squad can see them qualify from the 'group of death' and make a real impact in the finals in South Africa this summer.

Brazil, Portugal and North Korea are the Ivory Coast's rivals in Group G, and if they do qualify the Elephants may also have to face Spain the first knock-out phase.

In his first interview since being appointed to the job, Eriksson told Press Association Sport: "I am extremely happy and very excited. The Ivory Coast is a good football nation with a lot of good players - it couldn't be better.

"I know it is called the group of death but that just means the challenge is bigger. It will not be easy but I think the Ivory Coast with all their talents can get through it. That's the first target and we will have to work very hard for it.

"England were also in a 'group of death' in Japan in 2002 but they qualified and Argentina did not.

"This time Brazil are one of the favourites and Portugal are one of the best teams in Europe.

"But there are six African countries in the World Cup, it is in Africa for the first time, and I am sure two or three will spring some big surprises and we have to make sure we are one of those that do."

The Ivory Coast cannot meet England before the semi-finals and Eriksson says he would relish such a game.

He added: "It would be a great match if we could meet England - and hopefully in the final!

"England have a good chance of getting there, absolutely.

"We know there are five countries who would be considered the favourites - and of course England is one of them - but don't forget the Ivory Coast have a lot of very good players who have lots of experience in the Champions League and the top leagues in Europe.

"In the World Cup you never really know what is going to happen."

Eriksson, who succeeds Vahid Halilhodzic who left after a disappointing African Nations Cup campaign, believes the Ivory Coast should be confident in the calibre of the players they have.

The Swede said: "Didier Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world and he has showed that for many years now in the Premier League.

"There are other great players too including Eboue at Arsenal, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Toure - and his brother Yaya at Barcelona.

"The only problem is that we are not together until May 22 but that is the same for most of the teams, and I am going to start travelling from tomorrow to see all the players around Europe and in the Ivory Coast too.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead of me but I like that - in fact I love it. I'm really looking forward to the World Cup.

"We should have lots of support and the tournament in South Africa should be very good for the whole continent and the game of football."

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