[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic lost once in 24 games as coach of Ivory Coast's national team, but it was one defeat too many. Less than four months before the World Cup, the Elephants fired Halilhodzic and were set to replace him with Dutchman Guus Hiddink.
Despite a star-studded team led by Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Barcelona's Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast fell to Algeria, 3-2, in overtime in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
Halilhodzic got the news of his firing by fax Saturday -- four days before Ivory Coast was scheduled to face South Korea in a friendly. The Elephants headed to London without a coach.
Ivorian federation president Jacques Anouma announced the move during three-hour debate on state-owned RTI Sports to discuss what went wrong against Algeria in Cabinda.
"These guys didn't respect me," said Halilhodzic of the Ivorian federation officials. "I got the news by fax. For the time being, I don't want to say much. It's truly disgusting. I have a contract that runs through July 31. I am going to talk with my lawyer. I've done a good job and intended to work through the World Cup. We had the best record of any African team in qualifying and at the Africa Cup of Nations. Now, they change everything because of one loss, the first since I arrived."
Halilhodzic spent most of his coaching career in France, where he finished up his laying career. He also spent time with teams in Bosnia, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported that Hiddink, who coached Russia to the semifinals of Euro 2008, "almost certainly" would coach Ivory Coast at the World Cup.
Hiddink's contract with the Russian national team expires in June -- Russia lost in a World Cup 2010 playoff to Slovenia -- he will take over Turkey after the World Cup.
The Dutchman coached South Korea to fourth place at the 2002 World Cup and led Australia to the second round in 2006.
Taking Ivory Coast to the second round in 2010 would be quite an accomplishment. It is grouped with Brazil and Portugal, as well as North Korea, in one of the toughest groups.