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Coach downplays Elephants' strength

Vahid Halihodzic
Halihodzic has an unbeaten record in his six games with the Elephants
The coach of one of Africa's most highly-rated teams, Ivory Coast, has branded the side as "average".

Bosnian Vahid Halihodzic took charge of the Elephants in May, and has won three and drawn three of his six games in charge.

But while there are expectations for the team to improve on their promising World Cup of 2006, Halihodzic feels there is a lot work to be done with the side.

"This team is still fragile," he said at a news conference in Abidjan.

"Since I took up this job as manager and trainer, everywhere I go, I hear the same analysis, the same words: 'Ah, Vahid, you've got a super team'.

"And each time I say the same thing: 'I don't have a super team - perhaps there are some special players, but the team itself is still rather average.'

"You in the media, and above all the supporters, need to know that there are better teams than us - even in Africa."

Ivory Coast were gallant in defeat to Argentina and Holland at the 2006 World Cup finals and then won against Serbia.

The Didier Drogba-led side reached the semi-finals at this year's Africa Cup of Nations, where they were soundly beaten by Egypt.

But many still regard Ivory Coast as a side with the potential to make a real impact at the next World Cup in 2010.

To reach the finals, the Elephants must finish top of a qualifying group with Guinea, Burkina Faso and Malawi, which begins next March.

"Everyone is waiting with a lot of anticipation for this qualification," said Halihodzic.

"It'd be such a shame if this generation which has so much talent doesn't get to South Africa.

"Perhaps our greatest challenger could be ourselves. It's something exceptional for this generation, which has so much talent. For some players it'll be their last competition."

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see also
Ivory Coast 1-4 Egypt
07 Feb 08 |  African

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