Time is of the essence for Eriksson`s Elephants

Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will have his entire squad together for the first time next Monday -- less than three weeks before the start of the World Cup.

London: Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will have his entire squad together for the first time next Monday -- less than three weeks before the start of the World Cup.

The Swede was appointed at the end of last March and will have only two friendlies against Paraguay and Japan to shape the Elephants before being plunged into a tough World Cup group that also includes Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

Eriksson, a former mentor of Brazil coach Dunga, began a training camp this week with 13 of his 30-man preliminary squad -- four goalkeepers and nine defenders.

"We`ve been able to practice defending a little," said the former England manager who replaced Vahid Halilhodzic, fired after a quarter-final exit against Algeria at the African Nations Cup in January.

"It`s the not the best of situations, now I have 13 players for this week and we shall start to observe how they work, how they are privately," he told a small gathering of reporters.

"I will meet the other 17 on Monday. I`ve never worked with them. We have to be quick, to make a team of it, on the field and off the field."

"The reality is we have a lot of good football players and it`s up to me and the players to make a team of it."

Eriksson Detached

Eriksson has not lived in Ivory Coast and said that meant he was detached from criticism, media comments and political intrigue.

"Maybe it would have been better to live there for a while to get to know the mentality but nobody can accuse me of having favourites, of being friendly with the players, or any club," he said.

"I`ve come in totally from the outside. The players have been picked only on what I have seen and from speaking to managers, and scouts."

"It`s completely objective."

The Swede said, however, that he was under pressure and the emphasis would be on organisation.

"The press and people in Ivory Coast expected in the past more than what the team has delivered, so the pressure is on the team and we have to handle that.”

"When you meet teams like Portugal and Brazil, who can keep the ball and are technically very, very good, you have to be organised, otherwise you will not have the ball and to win games you must have the ball."

Eriksson heaped glowing praise on Dunga, who he coached for a year at Fiorentina.

Tactically Astute

"It`s always nice to see Brazil playing football," he said.

"I know the manager very well, I bought him to Fiorentina and had him there for a year.”

"Even as a player, he knew tactically everything about football. He`s one of the best footballers I ever had, he was fantastic, defending, attacking, he knew exactly everything.”

"I`m not surprised that they are extremely well-organised, It`s not easy to score a goal against them," adding that determination ran through Dunga`s veins.

Eriksson was also wary of the North Koreans and said there were few secrets about their football.

"Pay attention to North Korea," he warned. "Nobody talks about them but they play good football and physically are very fit, they have been in a training camp for six months maybe."

"They are very lively, they are organised. In the last game I saw they played five at the back, three in the central. They were running all the time.”

"You don`t see them getting tired. Even in the second half, they just go on."

Bureau Report