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Ivory Coast job search

Who will lead the Elephants?

March 10, 2010

Changing your coach a few months before the most important football competition in the world is not exactly an ideal scenario but, when an African team is involved, little comes as a shock.

Guus Hiddink
GettyImagesGuus Hiddink says he prefers international management at the age of 64

Having been favourites to lift the African Nations Cup, the Ivory Coast sacked Bosnian boss Vahid Halilhodzic after they were eliminated 3-2 by Algeria in the quarter-finals, with the Ivorian federation citing his lack of success in the tournament as their reasoning for the decision.

Halilhodzic can rightly feel aggrieved and vented his frustration to French newspaper L'Equipe, saying: "It's terrible, I'm disgusted. I lose one game in 24 and now I have been sacrificed. It's purely political." But it can come as no surprise, as the federation have employed six coaches since 2006 and, once again, the rebuilding process must start.

With time running out before the start of the World Cup though, this time the Ivory Coast will move quickly to bring in a replacement and, as Brazil, Portugal and North Korea are their opponents in a tough Group G, they will have to choose wisely.

Guus Hiddink

One of the most respected coaches in the game, Hiddink boasts an impressive C.V. and has an incredible track record when taking over an international side. South Korean honorary citizenship; a campaign for him to be elected Australian prime minister and the offer of Russian nationality are just some of the accolades accrued by the Dutchman since he first led South Korea to the semi-finals of the World Cup on home soil in 2002.

Hiddink has recently signed a deal with Turkey to take over in August, which gives him a free summer to attempt to better his international record and the Ivory Coast would be an attractive proposition given that the squad contains many European based players, including some of those he mentored for four months while at Chelsea. The likes of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou would blossom under Hiddink's watchful eye and the respect that he commands would go a long way to overcoming some of the well-documented problems in the dressing room.

A reported $1 million contract for his three-months of work would certainly attract his attention and Hiddink is unquestionably the best man for the job in the eyes of the Ivorian federation, as Ivory Coast FA president Jacques Anouma said: "Of the three or four in contention for the job, Guus is the person we want but we are still talking to him.''

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Wherever he goes, Eriksson will always be tainted by accusations that he is in it for the money. But, after an ill-fated spell as director of football at Notts County, the former England manager looks ready to return to a coaching role and the prospect of taking charge at another World Cup would certainly reignite his ambition to succeed at the highest level.

With a wealth of experience at club level, especially in Italy's Serie A, Sven's international escapades have been limited to a five-year stint in the spotlight with England and an all-too-brief spell with Mexico. His England experience certainly holds him in good stead as he led the Three Lions to two World Cups and two quarter-final defeats to Brazil and Portugal respectively; but a disappointing run with Mexico failed to enhance his reputation as he lost six of his 13 games in charge and was relieved of his duties as their World Cup participation was placed in doubt in March 2009.

Undoubtedly an experienced and tactically astute coach, Eriksson has many of the attributes needed to succeed, but his motivation is still under the microscope and he may not want to take on the challenge of an international position again so soon after his failures with Mexico. Club management may beckon, but if Hiddink decides not to take up the role, Eriksson will be next in line.

Philippe Troussier

Philippe Troussier
GettyImagesPhilippe Troussier: Has experience of the African game.

Some reports have suggested that Troussier is also on the Ivorians' shortlist and the 54-year-old already has experience of managing African sides in his work with Burkina Faso, South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco, while he has also coached Japan and Qatar.

Troussier, who is known as the 'White Witch Doctor' for over two decades of work on the continent at both club and country level, has also coached the Ivory Coast before (in 1994) and has extensive knowledge of the African game. His World Cup experience also sees him held in high regard as he led Nigeria through qualifying to France '98, before being sacked and taking over South Africa in time for the competition, although his starring role came in 2002 with Asian powerhouses Japan, where he reached the Second Round - losing to Turkey - after topping the group stage.

The French coach has already been linked with the North Korea job and his ambition to lead a side at the World Cup again is clear: "I can bring that experience to the [North Korea] team. It would be a wonderful adventure for me if I can coach a team in the 2010 World Cup,'' he told Nikka Sports newspaper.

If the Ivory Coast fail to land the star names of Eriksson or Hiddink, then Troussier offers the reliability and expertise that can only come from a coach entrenched in the continent's football. Currently the general manager of FC Ryukyu, he may be the man to take over the reins once the Elephants' World Cup adventures come to end, but he will know more than most that longevity is a scarce commodity for an African coach.