Eriksson 'excited' by Ivory Coast challenge

Swede relishes taking on 'Group of Death' in new job as coach of the Elephants
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The Independent Football

It beganwith a game against Bradford and may very well end against North Korea, having taken in Morecambe and Brazil en route; another season and another chapter in the increasingly surreal story of Sven Goran Eriksson, football's global meanderer.

Eriksson will be in South Africa for his third World Cup finals in June, this time in charge of Ivory Coast, and that also makes it three continents on which the Swede will have managed international sides. "I am extremely happy," said Eriksson yesterday of his appointment.

It is likely only to be a short-term role – Ivory Coast are in the "Group of Death" with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea and once their campaign is over Eriksson will be on the road again.

He began his roundabout route to South Africa in charge of Mexico, but a poor start to their qualification led to early calls for his sacking. "Kick him out," said one headline and, after a 3-1 defeat to Honduras, his employers took the advice to heart.

His appearance on the banks of the Trent last July was even further out of left field and one that always seemed likely to end some way short of the stated ambition for Premier League football at Notts County. Since packing his bag in February, Eriksson has been linked with North Korea, Ivory Coast's final group opponents, and Nigeria, so it came as little surprise when the West African country's federation looked to Eriksson to seal the "the sacred union between the Elephants and their coach".

"I am very excited," Eriksson said yesterday. "The Ivory Coast is a good football nation. I know it is called the Group of Death but that just means the challenge is bigger. The Ivory Coast with all their talents can get through it. England were also in a Group of Death in Japan in 2002 but they qualified and Argentina did not."

Eriksson succeeds Vahid Halilhodzic, who left after Ivory Coast were beaten by Algeria in the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations in January. He will now begin travelling in Europe to meet his players, but will not get his squad together until 22 May – they play their first game against Portugal on 15 June and take on Brazil five days later.

"Didier Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world," said Eriksson. "There are other great players too including [Emmanuel] Eboué, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Touré – and his brother Yaya. There is a lot of hard work ahead of me but I like that – in fact, I love it."

World traveller: Sven's unique CV

1977-78 Degerfors

1979-82 IFK Gothenburg

1982-84 Benfica

1984-87 Roma

1987-89 Fiorentina

1989-92 Benfica

1992-97 Sampdoria

1997-2001 Lazio

2001-06 England

2007-08 Manchester City

2008-09 Mexico

2010- Ivory Coast

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