The 62-year-old was named on Sunday as the Elephants’ coach for the tournament and is relishing the prospect of a first round group that also includes Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.
“I am extremely happy and very excited,” said the Swede, who managed England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup finals. “The Ivory Coast is a good football nation with a lot of good players – it couldn’t be better.”
“I know it is called the group of death but that just means the challenge is bigger. It will not be easy but I think the Ivory Coast with all their talents can get through it. That’s the first target and we will have to work very hard for it.”
“England were also in a ‘group of death’ in Japan in 2002 but they qualified and Argentina did not.”
“This time Brazil are one of the favourites and Portugal are one of the best teams in Europe. But there are six African countries in the World Cup, it is in Africa for the first time, and I am sure two or three will spring some big surprises and we have to make sure we are one of those that do.”
The Ivorians could possibly face Spain in the second round and cannot meet England before the semi-finals in what would be, for Eriksson, an encounter to relish.
“It would be a great match if we could meet England – and hopefully in the final,” he told Britain’s Press Association. “England have a good chance of getting there, absolutely.”
“We know there are five countries who would be considered the favourites – and of course England is one of them – but don’t forget the Ivory Coast have a lot of very good players who have lots of experience in the Champions League and the top leagues in Europe.”
“In the World Cup you never really know what is going to happen.”
Eriksson added: “Didier Drogba is one of the best strikers in the world and he has showed that for many years now in the Premier League.”
“There are other great players too including Eboué at Arsenal, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Touré – and his brother Yaya at Barcelona.”
“The only problem is that we are not together until May 22nd but that is the same for most of the teams, and I am going to start travelling from tomorrow to see all the players around Europe and in the Ivory Coast too.”
“There is a lot of hard work ahead of me but I like that – in fact I love it. I’m really looking forward to the World Cup.”
“We should have lots of support and the tournament in South Africa should be very good for the whole continent and the game of football.”
Eriksson takes over as the manager of the Ivory Coast squad from Vahid Halilhodzic who was sacked after Ivory Coast were knocked out by Algeria in the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations in January.
The Swede’s last job in football was as director of football of English League Two side Notts County. But he quit in January this year when the ownership of the club changed hands. Before that he spent a turbulent 10 months in charge of Mexico.