Sven-Goran Eriksson (born February 5, 1948) is a
Swedish football manager. He is currently the manager of the
English national football team. He will step down following the
conclusion of the FIFA World Cup, 2006. On January 31 Eriksson
was awarded the King's Medal (the second highest honour the king
can bestow on a Swedish commoner) by Sweden's King Carl XVI
Gustaf for his "valuable contributions - nationally and
internationally - to the sport of football."
Born in Torsby, Eriksson had an unremarkable playing career in
the lower divisions of Swedish football at KB Karlskoga and
Degerfors IF, before being forced to retire prematurely due to a
knee injury in 1975. After retirement, Eriksson became first a
coach, and then manager of Degerfors, taking the side from the
Third Division to the First Division in three years.
His success with Degerfors attracted the attention of much
larger clubs, and Eriksson joined IFK Göteborg in 1979. He won
the Swedish Cup in his first season, and a "treble" of League,
Cup and UEFA Cup (Göteborg beating Hamburger SV 4-0) in 1982.
Eriksson's European success led to him being head-hunted by
Portuguese club SL Benfica, and he had a similarly quick impact
there, Benfica winning the Portuguese Championship and finishing
runners-up in the UEFA Cup. After a second Championship the
following year, Eriksson moved on to Italy, becoming boss of AS
Roma. He was not as immediately successful at Roma as he had
been before, but he still won a Coppa Italia in 1986.
After a trophyless two years at Fiorentina, Eriksson moved back
to Benfica for a second stint in 1989, where he led the team to
the final of the European Cup (losing to AC Milan 1-0) in 1990,
and another League title in 1991. In 1992 Eriksson returned to
Italy to try his luck again, with Sampdoria, but he only managed
another Coppa Italia in 1994.
Eriksson finally found major success in Italy when he joined
Lazio in 1997 (after controversially reneging on a deal to join
English club Blackburn Rovers); with Lazio he won the Coppa
Italia twice (1998 and 2000), the European Cup Winners' Cup
(1999 - the very last tournament), and the Serie A title (the
Scudetto) in 2000 — only the second time that the Roman club had
won the Italian championship in their history.
Following the resignation of England manager Kevin Keegan after
a home loss to Germany in October 2000, the Football Association
specifically pursued Eriksson as his replacement. Eriksson
agreed to take over after his contract with Lazio ended in
summer 2001, although he would resign his post early and join in
January of that year. Eriksson was the first foreigner to be
appointed coach of the England national team, leading to a mixed
reception, ranging from surprise and intrigue to bordering on
the xenophobic; the Daily Mail columnist Jeff Powell wrote:
"So, the mother country of football, birthplace of the greatest
game, has finally gone from the cradle to the shame. We've sold
our birthright down the fjord to a nation of seven million
skiers and hammer throwers who spend half their lives in
Eriksson turned round England's bid for qualification for the
2002 World Cup, with several crucial wins over lesser opposition
before his first real test, England's rematch with Germany in
Munich on September 1, 2001. He passed it with flying colours -
England crushing their long-time rivals 5-1. Despite this
England still needed a late equaliser at home to Greece to
automatically qualify, and England's initially strong
performance in the 2002 World Cup (when in a group stage with
Nigeria, Argentina and Sweden) finals culminated in a distinctly
flaccid 2-1 loss to Brazil, the eventual winners.
After the World Cup, Eriksson's England came under more fire
after an embarrassing home loss to Australia in a friendly and a
draw with Macedonia in a Euro 2004 qualifier. England still
managed to qualify for Euro 2004, but the team's performance was
decidedly mixed, and Eriksson was again criticized for England's
overly-defensive performances in their first-round loss to
France and their quarter-final elimination by hosts Portugal,
which England lost on penalties. Eriksson has also been
questioned for often making numerous substitutions during
friendlies and playing players out of position. His controlled,
level-headed approach, in which he seldom loses his cool or
exhibits emotional outbursts, also drew speculations as to
whether he lacked the passion for the game enough to inspire his
players. Despite this, Eriksson still maintains a superb
competitive match record.
In February 2005, Eriksson was again criticised, after he played
striker Andy Johnson on the right-wing, in a poor-quality
friendly against The Netherlands.
Eriksson has also had to weather considerable speculation about
his private life, most notably his alleged affairs with the
television presenter Ulrika Jonsson, and FA secretary Faria Alam
(in a scandal that led to the resignation of the FA's chief
executive, Mark Palios). Despite this, Eriksson committed
himself to managing England until 2008.
On 7 September 2005, Eriksson's England team lost a World Cup
qualifying match against Northern Ireland 1-0, the first time
that England had lost to that team since 1972. Although it was
only Eriksson's first ever defeat in a World Cup or European
Championships qualifier match, it brought his position under
increased pressure and he was criticised, both by some fans and
by BBC commentators, for failing to instill team spirit and
tactics into his players. Criticism continued as England scraped
a 1-0 victory over Austria in a game which saw David Beckham
controversially sent off. Some of this criticism was answered,
however, as England put in a much improved performance, despite
the absence of David Beckham through suspension and Sol Campbell
and Steven Gerrard through injury, in a 2-1 win against Poland.
In 2006, he was recorded saying he would be willing to leave
England to manage Aston Villa if England won the World Cup,
after being duped into believing that a wealthy Arab would buy
the club and wanted him as manager. The wealthy "Arab" was in
fact the "Fake Sheikh", an undercover News of the World
reporter. Eriksson allegedly claimed that he could buy David
Beckham and commented on the club careers of other senior
England players such as Michael Owen.
On January 23, the Football Association announced that Eriksson
would leave his job after the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and it was
thought that the News of the World allegations played a part in
this decision. This was later denied by both parties with
Eriksson explaining that there was a prior arrangement to
terminate his contract immediately after the World Cup.
England have been drawn in Group B of the World Cup and will
play matches against Sweden, Paraguay, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Eriksson's final challenge as England manager will be to
progress to the knockout stages and then attempt to win the
trophy for the first time since 1966.