Vahid Halilhodzic believes he was the sacrificial lamp.
Halilhodzic, who was expected to lead the Elephants in South Africa, was dismissed after his team lost to Algeria in the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals. This loss was Halilhodzic’s first in 24 matches.

Vahid said their goal was to win the CAN and politicians started to put the pressure on them. He said he could not understand why he was fired but believes the politicians needed someone to sacrifice which could not be the players but the coach. Last January in Angola, Ivory Coast wasted a 2-1 lead in injury time before losing to Algeria 3-2 after extra time.

“Until then, I was the best coach in the history of Ivory Coast,” Halilhodzic said. “Eight minutes changed everything. But I knew perfectly well that it could happen when I accepted the mission.”

Ivory Coast is now chasing Guus Hiddink for the upcoming World Cup. Hiddink, who guided Russia to the semifinals of the 2008 European Championship, coached South Korea at the World Cup in 2002 and Australia in 2006.

The Elephants will play in the same group as Brazil, Portugal and North Korea at the June 11-July 11 tournament.