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Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The next Mexican national team coach
Much has been said and speculated about the choice for Mexico's national team after pentapichichi Hugo Sanchez sank the team out of the Olympics and lost the CONCACAF Gold Cup and a spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup to be held in South Africa next year as a preamble to the World Cup. I'm not usually one to comment on Mexico futbol since my team(s) are fierce rivals of the Azteca side but because this could have significant implications for the US national team as well as CONCACAF in general, I thought I would address it as well. From what I've heard through various means (radio, TV, internet), some of the names that have been worked with include expensive and outright formidable coaches such as Portugal's Scolari, Atletico Madrid (and former Mexico coach) "el Vasco" Aguirre, former Argentine (and current Toluca coach) Jose Pekerman, Jose Mourinho, and just recently former English national team coach Sven Goran Eriksson. Why is this important? Well, right now the team is being coached by interim coach Jesus "el chucho" Ramirez and many in the media as well as players argue that he should keep the job. Ramirez was also the coach for the youth Mexican side U-17 that won that tournament as well as the Olympic side prior to Sanchez taking over (unfortunately). Arguably, he's the best man for the job. As I hinted in previous postings on this blog I think the best idea is to allow coaches to develop with the younger teams and move up the system to be eventual head coaches of the national teams. The recent performance of these coaches is reflected on their impressive records: Domenech took France to the 2006 final, Bradley has done great for the United States, Pekerman also performed great with Argentina, and so far Ecuador's Sixto Vizuete has done a better job than his predecessor. One of the more outspoken Mexican team owners, Jorge Vergara, has been continually adamant about having high profile, high price coaches such as those stated above. Lately, Eriksson has received a lot of press and the pros and cons have been tossed back and forth. Most outspoken of all is Jaime Gallardo of XM Satellite Radio's Futbol de Primera and Tricolor Deportivo shows. He insists that Chucho Ramirez should be left alone because of the multiple problems Eriksson would have trying to understand the Mexican style, players, league, and the language (!). I have to say I agree with his position. Let's rewind from an American perspective... Back in time after the 2006 failure (I, the same as many other fans out there, was hoping to see a lot more from the American side), Bruce Arena was discontinued as head coach, and rightly so. His cycle had ended and his style had shown its age and lost flair and element of surprise. Sunil Gulati, head of USSF, let too much time pass between the World Cup and a decision on a new head coach. He was hoping to land Germany's former coach Jurgen Kilnsman but that fell through when US Soccer demanded to have several aspects of the team (technical staff) be continued without Klinsman's consent, i.e. he would have little input in terms of staff and certain other logistics.
Enter Bob Bradley... Right after the Klinsman talks failed (and even though it had been termed a done deal by the media), an "interim" position was given to Bradley. He proved to be more than just an interim by winning crucial matches and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title and a return to the FIFA Confederations Cup. So far he has continued to perform really well including impressive wins away in European soil against Euro 2008 teams Switzerland (1-0) and a classic football Poland team (3-0!). Such was also the case with Ecuador's Sixto Vizuete, who took up the reins after Luis Fernando Suarez quit after losing 3 World Cup Qualifiers in a row. Vizuete won an impressive game against Peru by the score of 5-1, beat Haiti in a friendly match with an undermanned side and lost, just yesterday, against France by 0-2 in a game that was missing 50-60% of their starters against a fully loaded French side with the likes of Malouda, Thuram, and Anelka on the field.
So as for Ramirez and Mexico's team.... Let the Chucho stay. I'd be more worried about Mexico with him in charge than any other coach. Pekerman could also be a great addition for the team. Being turned down by the likes of Scolari and Mourinho and even "El Vazco" Aguirre should let the FMF know what their options truly are. Still, it would be interesting to have the Mexican side be coached by Eriksson. A toss-up for sure, but maybe a hint of things to come. Maybe once Bradley's cycle ends the USA could follow up on its promise of bringing a renowned coach to America.