Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ivory Coast Whiffs on Guus Hiddink

Well, now the Ivorians look a little silly. Ivory Coast chased Guud Hiddink for their coaching opening almost to Ides of March, and Guus today told them "thanks but no thanks" in a newspaper column.

Hmmm. Kind of a punking there. And, it's getting late. Eighty-nine days till South Africa 2010.

When we think about this a bit more, Hiddink probably didn't make much sense for Ivory Coast. Or vice versa. And here's why:

Guus was previously engaged. In a couple of directions.

For one, he is under contract with Russia through the World Cup. Even though Russia isn't in it. The idea that the Ivory Coast might have to buy out the rest of the contract and, well, it just starts getting messy.

Second, Guus is about to take charge of Turkey. Once the World Cup is over. In theory, he had a window there when he could coach Ivory Coast, before he took over Turkey, but he wrote today that he wants to follow Turkey during its trip to North American in May. When he would, otherwise, be trying to whip Ivory Coast into shape.

The Ivorians ran out their big guns. Didier Drogba, whom Hiddink coached at Chelsea, lobbied him to take over the Elephants. Guus had conversations with the head of the federation.

Let's assume Guus was at least tempted. Let's assume he wanted to take a team to the World Cup for the fourth consecutive quadrennium. (Netherlands in 1998, South Korea in 2002, Australia in 2006.) And Ivory Coast has some guys who can play. He would have had a good chance to continue his streak of always getting out of group play ... and a puncher's chance to get to the semis, as he did in 1998 and 2002.

But it ... just ... got ... complicated. In the end, it was far easier to pretend to finish off his obligations to Russia and then shift into the Turkey gig.

So, where does Ivory Coast go now? Philippe Troussier, a Frenchman who has coached no fewer than five African national teams. They are (deep breath) Ivory Coast (in 1993), Nigeria (1997), South Africa (1998), Burkino Faso (1997-98) and Morocco (2005). As well as Japan for four years through the 2002 World Cup, when he got Japan into the knockout phase.

Anyway, Troussier seems to be the top candidate. Doesn't hurt that he is a Muslim convert and Ivory Coast is about 25 percent Muslim.

After Troussier? Sven-Goran Eriksson is, perhaps, the backup to the backup plan.

For sure, we know Ivory Coast is not getting Guss. Sort of the Cristiano Ronaldo of this coaching transfer window. Ivory Coast now looks for some lesser light.
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