'Forget the luxury of Europe'

Passionate Ivory Coast boss Francois Zahoui tells players Africa Cup of Nations is more important than playing for club.

    Francois Zahoui speaks to media ahead of Ivory Coast match with Burkina Faso [Reuters]

    The Ivory Coast players have been told by their coach to forget the creature comforts of their European clubs and get to grips with windowless changing rooms and sauna-like conditions.

    Francois Zahoui added that playing for their country against Group B opponents Sudan, Burkina Faso and Angola mattered more than appearing in La Liga or the English Premier League

    "I tell them to forget the comforts of the club, the national team it's a different kettle of fish," the impassioned coach, clearly exasperated by criticism of his team's opening 1-0 win over lowly Sudan, told reporters.

    "I have seen changing rooms where there are no windows and no air-conditioning and it's like an oven inside, but that's the African reality"

    Ivory Coast manager Francois Zahoui

    "Here we play in sauna-like conditions, with referees who do what they can under difficult circumstances.

    "I have seen changing rooms where there are no windows and no air-conditioning and it's like an oven inside, but that's the African reality," Zahoui said at the team's luxury hotel with its own private beach and golf club.

    "I have told my players that the national team is the highest level for any professional player.

    "You can have players from clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester, but the national team is a step up for each one.

    "You must have humility with you, knowing that the country is expecting a win."

    Ivory Coast are among the favourites to win their first title since 1992 after losing in the 2006 final and 2008 semi-finals.

    On both occasions, they played some of the best football in the tournament but lost to Egypt at the crucial stage.

    'Winning mentality'

    Zahoui reiterated that his priority was to win this time.

    "It doesn't matter if it's a header in the last minute," he said.

    "I know through experience that when Ivory Coast won the Nations Cup in 1992, we played extra-time in three games and won on penalties.

    "We are favourites and everyone expects to win easily but I work on the basis of respecting the opponents," said the coach who used references to Greece, Argentina, Cameroon and Burundi to make his points.

    "When Greece won the Euro 2004 in Portugal (playing defensively), everyone said it was a fantastic achievement but when we play that way, they don't like it.

    "I'm going to install a winning mentality and make sure we learn the lessons of the past. My mission is to take the cup back to Abidjan.

    "My players are going to suffer and are going to win matches."

    Ivory Coast face Burkina Faso in their next game on Thursday.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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