Halilhodzic: 'I was sacrificed'

Sacked Cote d'Ivoire coach blames political pressure for his premature departure.

    The Bosnian-born coach had only registered one loss in 24 matches with the team [GALLO/GETTY]

    The former coach of Cote d'Ivoire's national football team, Vahid Halilhodzic, has spoken out after his unceremonious sacking just months before the World Cup, saying he was 'sacrificed'.

    Halilhodzic was expected to lead Cote d'Ivoire in South Africa, but lost his job after his team lost to Algeria in January's Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

    The Bosnian coach believes his sacking was politically motivated.

    "Our goal was to win the CAN [Africa Cup of Nations] and politicians started to put the pressure on us,'' Halilhodzic said on Monday.

    "That was the president's message. We absolutely had to win. I don't really know why (they fired me), but they had to sacrifice somebody. And they were not going to sacrifice the players or officials from the team. It was the coach.''

    All change

    At the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola in January, Cote d'Ivoire squandered a 2-1 lead in injury time before losing to Algeria 3-2 after extra time.

    "Until then, I was the best coach in the history of Ivory Coast,'' said Halilhodzic, after his first loss in 24 matches.

    "Eight minutes changed everything. But I knew perfectly well that it could happen when I accepted the mission.''

    Halilhodzic also blamed the attack on the Togo team bus two days before the tournament, saying it had a detrimental effect on the performance of his squad.

    "The team was really touched,'' Halilhodzic said.

    "Some players couldn't sleep anymore, others stopped eating. It was confusing.''

    There is speculation that Cote d'Ivoire are now pursuing new Turkey boss Gus Hiddink for the World Cup.

    Hiddink guided Russia to the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championship, coached South Korea at the World Cup in 2002 and Australia in 2006.

    The Dutchman is favourite to take over on a short-term contract according to Ivorian press reports, although former Japan coach Philippe Troussier has also been linked to the job.

    No Sven

    Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has played down reports he would step in as Halilhodzic's replacement.

    "I don't think the Swedes need to get very excited about the link to the Ivory Coast,” said Eriksson's agent.

    "I don't think he (Eriksson) will coach them this summer,'' Athole Still told Sweden's TV4 Web site.

    "It's correct that we met the Ivory Coast association. But we were there to see their match against South Korea, and we met their association, too. So this has been blown up from nothing.''

    At the World Cup finals in South Africa later this year, Cote d'Ivoire have been drawn in a tough Group G with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

    Halilhodzic became the second coach of a World Cup-bound African side to lose his job since the Nations Cup after Nigeria fired Shaibu Amodu earlier in February.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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