Some three years ago, Francois Zahoui took Côte d’Ivoire to the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Today, he is in charge of Niger – a country far below the Elephants in the world ranking. FIFA.com spoke to the coach about his challenges after his side was drawn with Somalia in the preliminaries of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
Zahoui admits that there is a huge difference coaching the defending African champion Elephants and Niger, who have never made an impact on African football before the last few years. “It is not only a huge change, they also pose very different challenges,” he said. “In Côte d’Ivoire, there was already a big structure, financial resources and lots of quality players. It also meant for the coach that people immediately expected good performances. So I felt immediate pressure, and all the more as I had been an Elephant as a player, and as the national team had been unable to meet the people’s expectations, at least since AFCON 2006.
“In Niger, resources are much smaller and the team structure is less mature. But the Mena have recently played at the AFCON finals twice, and some good work has already been done, by Rolland Courbis, who had been my coach when I was a player in Toulon, and Gernot Rohr, whom I am good friends with. Niger already had a taste of the AFCON, and now we want to keep improving.”