While Mexico laughs, North Korea courts Sven-Goran Eriksson
It's almost too much to hope for, but if it happened, wouldn't it be poetic?
Here's the scenario: The draw for soccer's 2010 World Cup is being held in Cape Town, South Africa on Dec. 4. Out from the first pot pops England. Out from the second pot pops who knows who. Out from the third pot pops Mexico. Out from the fourth pot pops North Korea.
So, England, Mexico and North Korea are all in the same group for first-round play, along with an irrelevant second-seeded team.
What links them? Sven-Goran Eriksson, that's what.
The Swede, who coached England until he was shown the door after the 2006 World Cup, then Mexico until he was cast aside in April, is now thinking about coaching--you guessed it--North Korea. He heads to Asia for talks in the coming days.
North Korea has qualified for its first World Cup since 1966 and it wants some experience at the helm. Who better than the wandering Sven?
"We are still far from becoming a world-class team," Pak Doo-ik told England's Guardian newspaper. "There are still huge areas in which to improve, including in defense, creating chances and putting them away."
It was Pak Doo-ik who scored the famous goal that knocked Italy out of the 1996 World Cup in England. The same Italy where, 20-plus years later, Eriksson coached AS Roma, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Lazio.
If Eriksson is offered the job, it would be on loan from England's Notts County, where he is director of football. Kim Jong-hun, the coach who got North Korea to the World Cup, is no doubt less than thrilled by the idea.
For Eriksson, 61, it would be a step back onto the world stage, although it sounds more like a leap from one obscure outpost to another.
-- Grahame L. Jones