Michel quits Ivory Coast

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Ap_henry.jpg' class='caption'> Henri Michel is going out a winner even if Ivory Coast failed to qualify for the World Cup's second round.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Henri Michel is going out a winner even if Ivory Coast failed to qualify for the World Cup's second round. Michel, who took Ivory Coast to the final of the African Cup of Nations in February before losing to Egypt on penalties, quit as coach on Wednesday, announcing his decision following the Elephants' 3-2 victory over Serbia-Montenegro. "I had a goal, which I reached: qualification for this World Cup and the last African Cup of Nations,'' Michel said. "I would have like to have done better things in this World Cup but now I'm going to leave this Ivory Coast team and coach a club in Qatar. That's all I have to say.'' Precious experience The win followed a pair of 2-1 losses to Argentina and the Netherlands that eliminated the Elephants from their first-ever appearance in the competition. "This was the first time Ivory Coast have played against major football nations and not only teams from Africa, and that is precious experience for the team,'' Michel said. "I am proud and satisfied of my work, despite all the criticism I have had to stomach.'' Specific goals Michel faced harsh criticism from Ivory Coast fans and reporters, some of whom referred to him as a "rebel'' because he is French. But Michel was hired with two specific goals in mind, said Jacques Anouma, president of the Ivory Coast soccer federation: to qualify for Germany and to "represent ourselves with honor'' in the tournament. "From the two games I've seen, we have played at a high level,'' Anouma said. "But the results were not there and when the results are not there, it's often the coach who pays.'' Anouma had declined to say whether Michel's contract would be renewed. Michel also would not discuss the matter in detail, saying only he hadn't been offered an extension beyond the World Cup. Popular among players The former French national team player and World Cup coach with four different countries makes his home in the Middle East. His wife is Lebanese and they live in Beirut. Defender Kolo Toure said Michel was popular with the players. "It's sad for us but it's the coach's situation and we need to respect that,'' the Arsenal player said. "He's done a lot of things for us, he brought us to the World Cup. He's a really good man and we are proud of what he's done.'' Ivory Coast has been torn by civil strife for the past four years, with rebels controlling northern parts of the country, while the government holds the south, including the capital, Abidjan. There is growing anti-French sentiment in the south as many suspect the rebels have the tacit support of the French military, explaining term "rebel'' used by some Ivorian columnists. Anouma called the comments unfair. "If I think a Frenchman is the best person to coach this team, then I'll hire a Frenchman,'' Anouma said. Too much blame had been placed on the coach for narrow 2-1 losses to strong Argentine and Dutch teams, Anouma said, adding that any team would have dreaded having either in their group. "We got stuck with both,'' he said. Anouma said the responsibility for any failures was "collective,'' noting that some mistakes on the field were out of the coach's control. (AP)

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