ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast turned to the man who masterminded one of its most painful defeats by appointing Frenchman Herve Renard as its new coach on a four-year contract on Thursday.
Renard was in charge of underdog Zambia when it upset the Ivorians in the final of the African Cup of Nations two years ago, and now takes over the talent-filled West African squad after the disappointing group-stage exit at the World Cup under fellow Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi.
The 45-year-old Renard's last job was with French club Sochaux, which was relegated from the top flight under him last season, but he has strong credentials in Africa.
"The executive committee chose the one that had the best knowledge of our team and of African football, as well as one who loves our country," Ivory Coast Football Federation President Sidy Diallo said.
Renard was not present for Thursday's announcement but would travel to Ivory Coast in the next few days, Diallo said. He beat out France's Frederic Antonetti and Portugal's Manuel Jose for the job, with Diallo saying Renard was the only one of the three shortlisted contenders to have "no problems" with living in Ivory Coast. Salary details were not disclosed but Diallo said Renard "fits our budget."
"He made some efforts. I interpret this as a sign that he has passion in his heart," Diallo said.
Ivory Coast is still searching for a first major trophy since its lone continental title in 1992.
Renard's contract was designed for him to take the team through to the end of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. His first tournament is next year's African Cup in Morocco.
"It is important to give time for success," Diallo said. "We want to start anew. And we want to work on the long term. Our target is 2018."
It is unclear how much longer Renard will be able to call on the talents of veteran striker Didier Drogba and Toure brothers Yaya and Kolo, who are all heading toward the end of their international careers. Diallo said Ivory Coast needed to "keep an eye on the next generation."
Renard's first challenge will be to guide Ivory Coast through a 2015 African Cup qualifying group containing Cameroon and Congo, and then challenge for the title at the championship in January and February.
Diallo said 37 coaches applied for the job vacated by Lamouchi following the World Cup, where Ivory Coast was seconds from a place in the last 16 for the first time before being eliminated through a last-minute penalty by Greece. Ivory Coast also was a quarterfinalist at the last African Cup.
Even after those bitter disappointments, Diallo refused to criticize Lamouchi, saying the former coach met his targets by qualifying for the two tournaments.