Vahid Halilhodzic’s successor in the Elephants’ dugout, Sven-Goran Eriksson will be contesting his third FIFA World Cup™ this summer, having overseen England’s bids in 2002 and 2006.
The Swedish coach embarked on three ultimately doomed adventures after leaving that post, each fading his image as a winner and one of football’s most astute tacticians, but the Côte d'Ivoire Football Association still saw plenty of reasons to hand him the keys to the national team in March this year. While his extensive big-tournament experience certainly impressed, his knowledge of the English game – in which most of the team’s stars ply their trade – also helped seal the deal, and officials hope his high profile will now help raise the Elephants to the level craved by an expectant nation.
Forced to hang up his boots at the age of 27 due to a knee injury, Eriksson swapped his modest playing career for a far more successful one when he began his first coaching assignment at Degerfors. He took the club from the Swedish third division to the elite in three years and, in 1979, was rewarded with the top job at domestic titans Gothenburg. Together they won two league crowns and a Swedish Cup, but the highlight unquestionably came in 1982, when Eriksson led the side to UEFA Cup glory.
His standing now raised around Europe, the Sunne native looked to continue his progress overseas, kicking off his extraordinary spell of itinerancy at Benfica that same year. Between his switch to Portugal and his appointment as England manager in 2001, the 62-year-old collected silverware wherever he went and built himself one of the most formidable reputations throughout the continent. With Benfica, he won championship titles in 1983 and 1984 and returned for a second stint from 1989 to 1992 that yielded another Portuguese league crown in 1991 as well as a run to the European Champion Clubs’ Cup final in 1990. He likewise engineered a trio of Coppa Italia successes with Roma in 1986, Sampdoria in 1994 and Lazio in 1998, while also steering I Biancocelesti to their UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup triumph in 1999 and the Italian league-and-cup double the following year.
Those feats persuaded the Football Association to reward him handsomely for taking the England helm, but the recruitment of a foreigner did not go down well in all quarters. Eriksson experienced some fierce criticism during his five years in charge and never succeeded in taking the side beyond the last eight in his three major tournament campaigns.
Next came Manchester City, where despite a promising start he only stayed a year – which proved longer than he survived in the Mexico job soon afterwards. A surprise move to serve as Director of Football at fourth-tier English outfit Notts County similarly came to a premature end, but the Elephants coach now has a superb chance to confound his detractors and reacquaint himself with the kind of success that decorated the early part of his career.