Ivory Coast coach Lamouchi says he's done his job
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) -Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi thinks he did a good job at the African Cup of Nations and is not considering resigning despite the team's elimination in the quarterfinals, while the country's federation has denied an alleged changing room fight between Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.
Ivory Coast's star-filled squad was the African Cup favorite but had a lackluster tournament in South Africa, struggling in the group stage before falling to Nigeria 2-1 in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
The Ivory Coast football federation released a statement on Monday denying rumors "fueled by social networks'' of an "alleged fight'' between Drogba and Toure following the match at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The federation dismissed the rumors and said Toure didn't even stay very long in the changing room because he was selected for the post-match anti-doping test along with Didier Zokora.
It said Toure was there just long enough just to hear Drogba's speech as captain after the match.
"Our tears will dry,'' Drogba said, in French. "Be strong and remain with dignity in defeat. Don't give reason to our detractors because we are welded to defend the colors of our country.''
The 34-year-old Drogba, the tournament's biggest name, is among some of the players from this talented generation of Ivorians who will likely not have another chance to win the African Cup. Manchester City's Toure, meanwhile, has been touted as one of the players who may be the one taking over from Drogba as the team's new leader.
Lamouchi acknowledged being hugely disappointed with Ivory Coast's failure to win the title, but thinks the team did its best and one defeat shouldn't diminish the work he has done so far.
"I feel I have done my job,'' Lamouchi said. "It was not the result we wanted but that's part of the job. This is my first defeat in 10 games. It's a huge sadness. I thought we were on the right path, doing good work, but it was not enough.''
The 41-year-old Lamouchi, a former French international who took over Ivory Coast in the middle of last year, said he has not even considered resigning.
"It's out of the question for me to resign just after six months knowing the job (was) done,'' he said.
Ivory Coast had been looking to rebound from the disappointing loss to Zambia in last year's final. The Elephants haven't won the title since 1992 but had made the last four in three of the last four tournaments.
Nigeria scored first on Sunday through Emmanuel Emenike in the 43rd minute but Ivory Coast equalized through Cheik Tiote before Sunday Mba netted the winner in the 78th.
"I knew that we would need to be at 150 percent against a great team like Nigeria,'' Lamouchi said.
In addition to Drogba, Lamouchi's talented but aging generation of players also included Kolo Toure, Gervinho, Zakora and Salomon Kalou.
"We had only one goal coming into the tournament and that was to win the African Cup of Nations,'' Lamouchi said through a translator. "For some of us, it might have been a last chance.''
The veterans and the youngsters expressed their support to Lamouchi throughout the tournament, saying he brought a positive change in attitude.
"The coach brought a new spirit and a new way of thinking,'' midfielder Max Gradel said. "He shows us how to respect each other.''
Lamouchi's next challenge now, in addition to likely having to revamp the squad, is to focus on qualifying Ivory Coast for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Ivorians lead Group C of the African qualifying tournament with four points from two matches.
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