Lamouchi appointed Ivory Coast coach
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) -Sabri Lamouchi was appointed Ivory Coast coach on Monday, putting the former France midfielder in charge of Africa's top-ranked team and its array of Europe-based stars in his first job in management.
In a surprise move, the Ivorian Football Federation said the 40-year-old Lamouchi had replaced Francois Zahoui, who led Ivory Coast to this year's African Cup final, with immediate effect.
Lamouchi won 12 caps for France and played at Auxerre, Monaco, Inter Milan and Marseille, but had not coached a top-level club or any national team before. He only retired from playing in 2009.
Zahoui's contract ended after Ivory Coast's defeat to underdog Zambia in a penalty shootout in the African Cup of Nations final in Gabon in February, but negotiations over a new deal lasted for months afterward. A federation spokesman said reports that Zahoui had been fired were incorrect. There had been no agreement over a new contract.
Ivory Coast is No. 15 in the world rankings and Lamouchi will be expected to qualify the West African giants for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and next year's African Cup in South Africa - which he also will be expected to win after the Ivorians' failure this year continued a long drought since the country's only success in the tournament in 1992.
Ivory Coast won all five of its games leading up to the final under Zahoui and didn't concede a goal at the tournament before the shootout against Zambia.
Lamouchi took over days before Ivory Coast's opening World Cup qualifier, against Tanzania in Abidjan, on Saturday. Ivory Coast then travels to Morocco on June 9.
Federation spokesman Pierre Gondo said Lamouchi had beaten other candidates for the high-profile job, but didn't say who else was in the running.
"We talked to him for a long time, and to several others, and he's the one we finally picked,'' Gondo told The Associated Press.
In its statement, the Ivorian Football Federation thanked Zahoui for his work in charge of the national team since 2010. It didn't give any details on the length of Lamouchi's contract.