MEXICO CITY - When Sven-Goran Eriksson took over as Mexico coach last June, the talk was of whether he could lead his new team to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time.
Barely six months later, doubts have emerged about whether he can can even get them to South Africa in 2010.
World Cup qualifying defeats away to Honduras and Jamaica have given ammunition to critics who warned Eriksson was not prepared for the idiosyncrasies of Mexican football and the coach's headache grew worse on Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat to his native Sweden in Oakland.
Mexico, who have won only once in their last six games, showed little creativity and gifted a goal to the Swedes, losing the ball as they tried to play their way out of defence.
"I think we have to try and score goals when he have the opportunity and create more chances," said Eriksson on the Mexican federation's website.
"We also made mistakes in defence."
The defeat could not have come at a worse time with Mexico due to visit arch-rivals United States for a World Cup qualifier on February 11.
The game kicks off the CONCACAF qualifying competition's final stage which is played as a six-team mini-league.
The top three teams qualify directly for South Africa and the fourth plays off over two legs against the fifth-placed team from South America.
If Mexico lose away to the U.S., as their recent record of two wins their last 10 meetings suggests they will, then the trips to Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Trinidad will loom very large.
Eriksson, the former England boss, is facing serious selection problems with Mexico's European-based players either injured or struggling to get first-team football.
The country's younger players, including the members of the team which won the under-17 World Cup, have still to live up to their potential and his decision to call up naturalised players to fill the gaps has sparked controversy, much to Eriksson's bemusement.
Eriksson tried to put a brave face on the whole situation after the Sweden defeat.
"For me, this game wasn't entirely negative," he said. "There were a lot of positive things, I liked the attitude, it was a good game and it cleared up some doubts.
"We had some chances to score a goal, we fought hard and we have two weeks to improve before we face and try to beat the United States.
"Of course, we have a chance to win the first game of (final stage of) the qualifying tournament," he added.
"It will be difficult, we know it will be a tough game, as history suggests, but we are going to work with optimism."