Guus Hiddink is ideal to lead Ivory Coast to World Cup
By Stephen Fottrell
Hiddink is considering taking a fourth successive team to a World Cup
There is perhaps no-one who embodies the image of the global game more than the much-travelled frequent flier Guus Hiddink.
The 63-year-old Dutchman has been approached to take on the challenge of leading a talented but stuttering Ivory Coast side to the World Cup.
Vahid Halilhodzic was relieved of his duties last week following a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations campaign and they have since suffered a deflating 2-0 defeat to Hiddink's former team, South Korea, in London on Wednesday.
Were he to take on the challenge of taking the Elephants to South Africa, it would cap a remarkable period of globetrotting for Hiddink, even by the standards of one of the busiest and most in-demand coaches in the game.
The past 12 months have already seen him commit to three different coaching roles.
Just weeks ago, he confirmed he would not be renewing his contract with Russia and accepted the post of Turkey's national coach.
Never one to remain idle, however, the Dutch coach is considering filling the time between his contract with Russia expiring in June and moving to Istanbul in August, by making the Ivory Coast the fourth team he has led to a World Cup finals, following the Netherlands (1998), South Korea (2002)and Australia (2006).
Hiddink is not averse to a bit of multi-tasking, having commuted between the Netherlands and Australia in the lead-up to the 2006 World Cup, in his dual role as PSV Eindhoven and Socceroos coach.
In Germany, he led the Australians to the last 16 in only their second World Cup appearance, a feat the Ivorians will at least hope to emulate this time around.
To do that, though, they will need an international coach of Hiddink's experience, after finding themselves in another tough group - a fate that prevented them from progressing in Germany four years ago.
On that occasion they ended up as underdogs in a group that included Argentina and the Netherlands, and now the Ivorians will have to overcome the odds once more after being drawn against Brazil, Portugal and North Korea in Group G.
Hiddink would certainly relish the opportunity to reunite with Elephants captain Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, having led Chelsea to victory in England's FA Cup final last year during a short period in charge of the London club, when he was again balancing dual responsibilities, this time with the Russians.
His stock was at its highest at that time, after proving highly popular in England and he looked certain to lead the Russians to South Africa until Slovenia became the only second-seeded European play-off team to progress with a shock win over Hiddink's highly fancied team.
Ivory Coast's players are in need of a boost ahead of the World Cup
Since that rare blemish on his polished CV, Hiddink has been looking for a new challenge, and has certainly already found one with a young Turkish squad in the midst of a period of transition.
However, there is a more immediate challenge that must surely be tempting for a man who doesn't shirk from one - that of trying to inspire the best from an Ivory Coast side, which is arguably the most talented of all the African teams competing on their home continent this summer.
He has had previous success in using home continent advantage to get the best out of a side, having exceeded expectations by getting South Korea to a World Cup semi-final as co-hosts eight years ago - an achievement which earned him honorary South Korean citizenship.
Four years later, he earned national hero status once again, becoming "Aussie Guus" down under when he managed to break the Socceroos cycle of perennially failing at the final hurdle to qualify for the finals.
And despite his disappointment with Russia, the fact that he was also linked with Nigeria, another of the African qualifiers to seek a new coach ahead of June, shows just how in demand he remains around the world.
Whether he can become an honorary Ivorian will of course depend on him being able to get the Elephants out of one of the toughest groups in South Africa, but given his track record, few would bet against it.
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