Could Zidane ride the notorious AFCON managerial rollercoaster?

Dove and Udoh get heated over Nigeria's AFCON chances (2:21)

Ed Dove and Colin Udoh disagree on whether Nigeria will be able to do enough to win AFCON. (2:21)

Seriously, who'd be an AFCON manager?! The past week has seen a glut of firings as big teams have fallen by the wayside at the group stage, and hosts Ivory Coasts even sacked their coach while still needing to play in the knockouts.

Job security for football managers is rarely too healthy at the best of times, but with shock results and scandal aplenty in the Ivory Coast so far, it's been a particularly brutal time to be a national team boss in Africa.

Here, ESPN runs the rule over those departed head coaches; how they exited, whether they deserved it, and who'd be their dream replacement...


Circumstances: Algeria were stunned 1-0 by Mauritania to miss out on the knockouts - the second consecutive tournament where the North African giants have been eliminated in the group.

Having overseen a similarly miserable campaign in 2022, Djamel Belmadi was always going to find it tough to keep his job, and the head coach acknowledged in his post-match press conference that his future would be discussed upon returning to Algeria.

Consequence: Departure via mutual consent.

Did they deserve it? Belmadi, whose touchline behaviour had grown increasingly nervy, was the mastermind of Algeria's 2019 Nations Cup success in Egypt, and also oversaw the longest undefeated streak by any African national team ever.

For these achievements, he enjoyed a reprieve after bitter failure at the last AFCON, and also survived missing out on the World Cup, after Cameroon snatched qualification from Algeria's grasp in Blida in 2022.

First round exit in the Ivory Coast marks a third major failure in a row, and Belmadi's inability to build on his success of 2019 now overshadows that glorious triumph.

The dream replacement: Zinedine Zidane, of Algerian Kabyle descent, has done it all in the sport as a player and manager... a part from win the Africa Cup of Nations. Could this son of the soil be tempted by a completely fresh challenge away from the pinnacle of the European game?

Ivory Coast

Circumstances: When AFCON hosts Ivory Coast were smashed 4-0 at home by lowly Equatorial Guinea, their worst ever home defeat and the biggest ever loss by a Nations Cup host, it was always going to be hard for Jean-Louis Gasset to survive.

They (somehow) squeaked into the knockout stages with three points and a -3 goal difference, but the Ivorian federation had seen enough. FA President Yacine Idriss Diallo, perhaps with an eye on his own reputation, opted to take the decisive step to replace a head coach during a tournament on home soil.

Consequence: Gasset was fired on Wednesday, with the Ivorians - at the time - unsure of whether they'd progress to the knockouts. Now they sit without a coach and face defending champions Senegal on Monday.

Did they deserve it? Emphatically, yes. A questionable choice by the FA ahead of such an important tournament on home soil, given the fact Gasset had no prior experience of African football. He's struggled to get a grip of the players at his disposal, flip-flopped on the role of captain Serge Aurier, and big calls to leave Eric Bailly and Wilfried Zaha at home haven't paid off.

The dream replacement: Former international midfielder Emerse Fae, who was very briefly in the Premier League with Reading, has been announced as Gasset's interim replacement.

However, that didn't prevent the Ivorian Federation from appealing to the French Federation to allow them to 'loan' Herve Renard for the rest of the tournament. Renard, who guided the Ivorians to the AFCON crown in 2015, is currently head coach of France's women's team. That appeal was not successful.


Circumstances: 2-0 up against Mozambique in the 91st minute, Ghana somehow conspired to draw 2-2 and dropped out of the competition. An opening defeat by Cape Verde set the tone, with unhappiness at Chris Hughton's reign as Black Stars coach bubbling over among supporters and fans in the aftermath of their exit.

Consequence: There was no surviving the first round elimination, the second in a row for the Black Stars, and the ex-Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion boss was duly sacked in the aftermath of the defeat. Hughton's technical team were also "dissolved" as per a statement issued by the GFA.

Did they deserve it? One point from matches against Cape Verde and Mozambique isn't acceptable, even thought Hughton has had to contend with injuries to the likes of Mohammed Kudus, Thomas Partey and Tariq Lamptey.

A conservative style perhaps hasn't truly suited this group of players, Hughton struggled to get the best out of the talented Inaki Williams, and ultimately, results have spoken.

The dream replacement: The Ghanaian Sports Ministry announced plans on Thursday to restructure Ghanaian football from top to bottom in the aftermath of their miserable AFCON campaign. Expect a new road map, a return to grassroots focus and, subsequently a new head coach in place.

One anticipates that a home-grown head coach would be preferable... We wonder if Jurgen Klopp (who certainly meets criteria for experience, playing style and track record) might have a Ghanaian grandparent that no one knows about...

The Gambia

Circumstances: After remarkable progress in recent years, including maiden AFCON qualification and a run to the AFCON quarterfinals two years ago, The Gambia were eliminated in the first round this time around.

They lost all three matches, but were close to qualification in their final group game against Cameroon, only to concede twice in the final three minutes.

Consequence: Despite still being under contract until August 2026, Gambia's smiling Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet announced his resignation in the immediate aftermath of that Cameroon thriller.

Did they deserve it? It's a sad end for Saintfiet, who oversaw Gambia's climb up the FIFA rankings and genuinely wrote a new chapter in the nation's sporting history. In time, he will surely be able to look beyond the failure of this tournament - and Gambia's near-death experience before arriving in the Ivory Coast - to fully realise what he's achieved with the minnows.

The dream replacement: For The Gambia, the dream Tom Saintfiet replacement would probably be...Tom Saintfiet! How else are they going to replace a man who has generated such affinity with the country, made such progress tactically and emotionally with the players, and who's overseen such a magnificent lift in Gambian soccer.


Circumstances: One goal, two points and Tunisia were out. They finished bottom of Group E, having been defeated by Namibia - ranked 115 in the world - to conclude their worst AFCON campaign since 2002.

Consequence: Kadri resigned after Tunisia's failure to beat South Africa in their final group game, with the head coach revealing that his contract would have automatically expired anyway with the Carthage Eagles failing to meet their minimum aim of the semifinals.

Did they deserve it? Kadri impressed by defeating Nigeria at the last AFCON - having stepped in during the tournament - before guiding Tunisia to the World Cup and then defeating France in Qatar. However, despite the goodwill, he was never going to survive such a dismal group-stage campaign in Ivory Coast, even if Tunisia did miss the likes of Wahbi Khazri and Hannibal Mejbri.

The dream replacement: After a limp and timid exit from the tournament, perhaps Tunisia need to turn to a coach who can restore the Eagles' lost guts and 'grinta'. How someone like Gennaro Gattuso or Diego Simeone would relish the challenge of getting this team snapping again!

The likes of Hector Cuper and Badou Zaki have been mooted as more realistic potential replacements.


Circumstances: Tanzania's Adel Amrouche made inflammatory comments about Morocco ahead of their opening match at the tournament, with the Belgo-Algerian head coach insinuating that the Atlas Lions received favourable treatment by the Confederation of African Football.

Consequence: Amrouche was suspended for eight matches by CAF, then suspended by the Tanzania Football Federation, with his assistant Hemed Suleiman Morocco (no relation!) replacing him for the Taifa Stars' outstanding group games. The East Africans were duly dumped out in the opening round.

Did they deserve it? Wrong place, wrong time for these views to be aired, particularly thrown out without any evidence behind them.

The dream replacement: Tanzania could be the kind of opportunity to tempt Stuart Baxter back to Africa, while someone like Nasreddine Nabi - linked with Kaizer Chiefs in 2023 - could be an interesting fit given his knowledge of the local scene.