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Ivory Coast replace coach before Nations Cup

ABIDJAN, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast have temporarily replaced coach Uli Stielike less than two weeks before the start of the African Nations Cup after the German's son fell into a coma, the Ivorian Football Federation said on Monday.

French coach Gerard Gili, who has steered Ivory Coast's under-23 team to their first Olympic Games in Beijing this year, will take over from Stielike.

'The national coach Ulrich Stielike has a few family problems, notably his son who is in quite a critical situation. Given this situation the president of the federation and his colleagues had to find a temporary solution,' Ivorian Football Federation secretary general Ouattara Hegaud told Reuters.

'While we wait for Stielike's family situation to normalise, the team's preparations will be directed by Gerard Gili, the Olympic coach.

'Everything that was planned by Stielike remains the same, this is simply a human issue. But I think it is an issue which will be resolved very quickly and we will again see Stielike leading this team,' said Hegaud.

Former West Germany and Real Madrid midfielder Stielike told Germany's SID sports news agency: 'My son was taken into intensive care in hospital early on Sunday and is in a coma.

'I'll definitely miss the first two matches. Everything beyond that depends on my son's condition.'

Former Olympique Marseille and Egypt coach Gili is no stranger to the national side, having acted as assistant to compatriot Henri Michel when the Ivorians reached the 2006 Nations Cup final and when they competed at the World Cup in Germany.

The Elephants are due to leave on Tuesday for a week-long training camp in Kuwait ahead of the start of the tournament in Ghana on Jan. 20.

Ivory Coast, among the favourites for the Nations Cup, face Nigeria in their first match in Group B on Jan. 21. They also meet Mali and Benin in group matches.

Stielike, 54, has been Ivory Coast coach since October 2006. He put together an unbeaten run of six successive matches without conceding a goal at the start of his tenure which ensured the team qualified for the Nations Cup with some ease.