Halilhodzic wants revenge with Algeria

AFP| Last Updated: May 18, 2014, 11:35 AM IST

Algiers: Vahid Halilhodzic is going to the World Cup in Brazil as coach of Algeria -- the country that dashed his dreams of featuring at the last finals.

The 62-year-old Bosnia-born naturalised Frenchman guided Didier Drogba-inspired Ivory Coast through the 2010 African qualifiers.

But five months before South Africa staged the first World Cup on the continent, the `Elephants` competed at the Africa Cup of Nations where the star-studded squad were favourites to win. A quarter-final against Algeria presented no obvious perils.

The authoritative Halilhodzic surely felt comfortable as he paced the touchline with time ticking away in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda and his team 2-1 ahead.

But the Ivorians inexplicably imploded, conceding a late equaliser and another goal early in extra time to lose and face the wrath of supporters back home.

Halilhodzic was sacked, Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson took over, the team came third behind Brazil and Portugal in a difficult group, and Ivory Coast were among five African first-round casualties.

"Every lesson in life is expensive and I paid mine," said Halilhodzic when asked how he felt after being deprived of a first World Cup coaching appearance.

Wounded in his native Mostar during the Bosnian war, Halilhodzic had a decade before he experienced the World Cup magic as a footballer at the 1982 finals.

He came on as a substitute striker against hosts Spain and Honduras for Yugoslavia, but could not add to his eight-goal international tally.

After leaving Ivory Coast, he managed leading Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb and took charge of Algeria three years ago.

"I met the squad in France, believed they would respond to me and that we could achieve something together," he recalled.

The `Desert Foxes` were seen as possible winners of the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa and after a meek first-round exit, Halilhodzic must have feared the worst.

But officials backed the disciplinarian and after a loss to Mali, Algeria comfortably won a World Cup qualifying group, then edged Burkina Faso in a play-off.

Halilhodzic`s goal will be to guide Algeria through to the knockout stages for the first time in their history but faces a tough task in a group consisting of Belgium -- who have a squad brimming with talent from the best leagues in Europe -- South Korea and a capable but unpredictable Russia to create history.

Halilhodzic has worked tirelessly to instil teamwork and blames "narcissistic" footballers for the failure of African countries to get further than the World Cup quarter-finals.

"The individual comes first in Africa and the team second. Team spirit is lacking and this makes it impossible to create winners," he says.

But Halilhodzic did create winners at Raja Casablanca, a leading Moroccan club he guided to glory in 1997 when the CAF Champions League was first staged.

Another coaching triumph for the greying, often deadpan figure was leading Paris-Saint Germain to the 2004 French Cup.

Having become established as a regular scorer in Bosnia with Velez Mostar, he moved to France and proved particularly effective at Nantes.

Algeria is just the latest stop in a bohemian coaching career that has seen him coach in Bosnia, France, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast and Croatia -- if he succeeds in guiding the Algerians to the second round it will make all the travelling worthwhile.