Ivorians fall short of top class, says coach Michel
STUTTGART, June 16 (Reuters) World Cup debutants Ivory Coast were not good enough to compete at the highest level, coach Henri Michel said after they crashed out today.
''Everyone tells me the team is wonderful but that's not enough. Ivory Coast are not at the level of the top teams,'' the French coach told a news conference today after his side's 2-1 defeat to the Dutch in Group C.
The tournament's best performance so far earlier in the day by Argentina in a scintillating 6-0 demolition of Serbia&Montenegro helped seal the Ivorians' fate.
They now have only pride to play for in the basement battle with the Serbians on Wednesday in Munich.
Michel said his team were ''more than disappointed'' even though they had known they would face a titanic struggle to qualify from what was generally considered the toughest group in the tournament.
''We had high hopes even though we knew it would be difficult,'' he said.
CHIEF FAILURE Michel, who has coached France, Cameroon and Morocco at previous World Cups, believed his side's chief failure was in not converting chances.
''We needed too many opportunities to score and you cannot have that at World Cup level,'' he told reporters.
He also faulted his team for conceding two first-half goals in their two matches. On both occasions, they pulled one back before a rousing finale. Today, the Dutch were on the back foot for much of the second half.
''For 45 minutes we could only defend,'' conceded Dutch coach Marco van Basten. ''Luckily, we finished with a victory.'' Man-of-the-match Arjen Robben also joined the Ivory Coast appreciation club today, saying they should be proud of the impression they had made in their first World Cup finals.
''We were not happy to have them in our group, which tells you something,'' he said.
He also had a few comforting words for Chelsea team mate Didier Drogba who will miss the Serbian match because of suspension following his second yellow card today.
''He can go on a nice holiday and have a rest,'' the Dutchman suggested.
REUTERS DH RAI0143