Sven in firing line after dropping star turn

MEXICO CITY - Sven-Goran Eriksson's Mexican adventure has taken another unhappy twist with his decision to drop midfielder Antonio Naelson, one of the country's most creative players.

Eriksson, whose side face a crucial World Cup qualifier at home to Costa Rica on Saturday, has baffled Mexicans by the decision and his subsequent explanation that the Brazilian-born player does not fit into his system.

Naelson, who has been outstanding for Mexican champions Toluca, has started intermittently under Eriksson and has now been dropped from the squad altogether for the Costa Rica game and the visit to Honduras next Wednesday.

"Toluca are playing very well...but for us, I mean the national team, we are going to use a system which is different to Toluca's," the Swedish coach told a news conference on Tuesday.

"The players I have picked are the right ones for the job we want to do against Costa Rica and Honduras."

Eriksson has also been questioned for repeatedly selecting European-based players such as Carlos Vela (Arsenal), Giovani dos Santos (on loan to Ipswich Town from Tottenham Hotspur), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal) and Nery Castillo (Shakhtar Donetsk) who have been given precious little playing time by their clubs.

"Eriksson doesn't like talented players," said columnist Hector Huerta writing for the ESPN Deportes website.


"Sinha (Naelson) has played for Mexico at the Copa America, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, but Eriksson simply doesn't like him.

"The players he likes are young ones, even if they play in the second division like Giovani.

"He also likes the undisciplined ones because he has once again picked Carlos Vela, who got stupidly sent off against Honduras and was suspended for two matches.

"And he likes the hard runners like Leandro (Augusto) and Alberto Medina, who have been picked again."

The former England coach has had a torrid time since his appointment last June.

Mexico struggled through the semi-final group stage of the CONCACAF qualifying competition, losing away to Jamaica and Honduras as they sneaked through on goal difference ahead of the Caribbean islanders.

Then they started the six-team final stage by predictably losing to old rivals the United States last month, going down with barely a whimper apart from a sending-off for captain Rafael Marquez.

Eriksson is widely expected to lose his job if his side fail to take four points from the two games.

Mexican media have been speculating that former coach Javier Aguirre, who recently left Atletico Madrid, is waiting in the wings should Eriksson's side fail again.