Soccer-Aguirre faces same Mexico problems that plagued Eriksson

MEXICO CITY, April 4 Sat Apr 4, 2009 4:57pm BST

MEXICO CITY, April 4 (Reuters) - Mexico's new coach Javier Aguirre will inherit a demoralised team along with many other deep-rooted problems that may not be solved by simply bringing in a new manager to replace sacked Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Aguirre, named on Friday, faces the task of lifting Mexico into an automatic qualifying spot for the 2010 World Cup after a poor start by a team who seem unable to cope with the more physical style of other sides, especially away from home.

Returning for a second stint as national coach, Aguirre's familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of Mexican football may give him an edge over his Swedish predecessor but he will still have to deal with the same difficulties.

Mexico's supply of international class players appears to have dried up and recent results in age-restricted competitions suggest something is wrong with the country's youth policies.

Last week, Mexican Football Federation (FMF) president Justino Compean, the man who announced Eriksson's departure on Thursday following the 3-1 World Cup qualifying defeat in Honduras, admitted Mexican football had a problem.

"It's obvious that we have reached a period of stagnation," he said. "In not getting results, we have failed in our planning. This is not a recent thing and it's our responsibility, which we are not going to shirk."

Team captain Pavel Pardo also called on the directors to pull their weight.

"The coach has 30 percent (of the blame) and the rest lies with the players," he said following Eriksson's dismissal. "The directors also share a percentage.

"Why have other teams like the United States improved? Because they have a project, they have a philosophy and they have criteria, and this has to be analysed by the people in the long trousers."

Last year, Mexico's under-23 team failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing and this year their under-20 team missed out on the world youth championship in Egypt.

ADAPTATION PROBLEMS

Failings with the youth policy were exposed last year when gifted midfielder Francisco Torres opted to play for the United States instead of Mexico who had repeatedly overlooked him.

Meanwhile, Mexican players who move abroad have often struggled to adapt.

Forwards Nery Castillo, Guillermo Franco and Carlos Vela have seen little action at their respective European clubs while injury-plagued Giovani dos Santos has gone from Barcelona to English second division Ipswich Town in less than a year.

Faced with a shortage of local talent, successive coaches have called up the Argentine and Brazilian-born players who, after years of playing for Mexican clubs, are eligible for naturalisation.

It is a controversial policy, sometimes criticised by members of the squad themselves who say that Mexican players are being denied a place.

"If Mexico believe that the only change necessary is on the bench of the national team, they are making another serious mistake," wrote columnist and TV commentator David Faitelson on the website of ESPN Deportes (espndeportes.espn.go.com).

"The victim is called Sven-Goran Eriksson and the solution may be Javier Aguirre ... But the illness which afflicts Mexican football is much more serious, chronic and dangerous." (Writing by Brian Homewood in Buenos Aires; Editing by Sonia Oxley; To comment on this story: sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)