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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Michel in the dock
James Copnall
BBC Sport, Abidjan

Henri Michel
Michel will not win many popularity contests in the Ivory Coast
It seems that Ivory Coast's World Cup game against Serbia & Montenegro on Friday will be Henri Michel's last as coach.

Michel has said that his contract, which expires at the end of the World Cup, has not been renewed.

His departure - if indeed he does leave - would not be a surprise, and neither will it disappoint many Ivorians.

The Elephants have lost their first two games in Germany, but the reasons for Michel's unpopularity go much deeper.

Ivorians are convinced they should have done better in their maiden World Cup given the talent at Michel's disposal.

Some of them - like Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure - turn out regularly for big European teams.

African and European media have been calling the Elephants 'the best African team' or 'the African team on the rise' for almost two years.

On paper, Michel's achievements are considerable after taking the Ivory Coast to their first World Cup, and to the final of the 2006 African Nations Cup.

But the amount of talent Michel had at his disposal convinced many Ivorians that the Frenchman had only done the bare minimum.

When Ivory Coast lost a key qualifying game against Cameroon, hundreds of angry supporters took to the streets to demand that Michel be sacked.

The Frenchman was accused of poor tactical options, and surprising personnel choices.

If the team had not subsequently qualified for Germany and reached the final of the Nations Cup, there is no doubt Michel would have been out the door earlier.

A section of the Ivorian population is actively hostile to the former colonial power France, which certainly has contributed to the level of vitriol flying Michel's way.

The Frenchman appears to be fed up with the criticism and the hostility, but an objective reading of his reign suggests the fans are not completely out of line.

The Ivorian Football Federation will almost certainly have to pick a successor, but there is no immediate rush.

The Ivory Coast's next game is not until September, and the Elephants' 2008 World Cup qualification group of Gabon, Madagascar and Djibouti is not particularly tough.

There should be many decent coaches intrigued by the prospect of managing a young and talented national team that can be a force up to and including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

As he moves on to his next coaching job, Michel may just be wondering whether he could not have made more of his opportunity.

SEE ALSO
Ivory Coast team guide
22 May 06 |  Ivory Coast
World Cup debutants
20 May 06 |  World Cup 2006
Pick your Ivory Coast XI
16 May 06 |  Squad selectors
World Cup schedule
25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage


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