Odds against Renard in quest for third title
Herve Renard is looking to do something in Gabon that no coach has done before and win a third Africa Cup of Nations title with a third different country.
The Frenchman leads Morocco into the tournament having won the title with the Ivory Coast two years ago and with Zambia, the last time it was held in Gabon in 2012.
However, Renard, 48, knows it will not be easy with his Morocco side shorn of several key players due to injury.
“We would like to do it, but it is easier said than done,” Renard said during a press conference in Paris organised by beIN Sports.
“When we came into the tournament with Ivory Coast we were not in sparkling form so that is what makes me think everything is possible in a competition like the African Cup.”
Only two coaches have won the Cup of Nations three times, with Charles Gyamfi achieving the feat in charge of Ghana in 1963, 1965 and 1982. Hassan Shehata also won it three times with Egypt between 2006 and 2010.
Just getting out of their group would be an achievement for Renard and Morocco, however.
They had already lost midfielders Younes Belhanda, Oussama Tannane and Watford’s Nordin Amrabat to injuries before twinkle-toed Southampton star Sofiane Boufal withdrew with a knee injury at the weekend.
Any team would struggle to overcome such losses, even if Morocco still have quality at their disposal, not least in the shape of Juventus centre-back Mehdi Benatia, the captain.
The Atlas Lions will come up against DR Congo, Togo and Renard’s former team the Ivory Coast in Group C in Oyem as they look to go beyond the group stage for the first time since reaching the final in Tunisia in 2004.
“The hardest part will be this first round with Ivory Coast and DR Congo, two massive teams, as well as Togo,” Renard said.
“I put pressure on myself because I am not afraid to say that not reaching the quarter-finals would be a failure. I didn’t take the job to not go beyond the group stage, even though we are in a very difficult section.”
He added: “Morocco have not done anything in a major competition for 15 years now. That is a long time and there is a lot of expectation.”
While Renard led the Ivorians to glory two years ago, Moroccans could only look on — their country, African champions once in 1976, had given up the hosting of the tournament to Equatorial Guinea over ebola fears and were thrown out as a result.
“The fact that I have had a lot of success in recent years also makes people think that alone can make the difference. But that doesn’t matter, what matters is the spirit of the team and the way we go into our matches,” added Renard, who had a brief and disappointing stint in charge of Lille in his native France after leaving the Elephants.
“The biggest problem for Morocco coming into this competition is to say to ourselves that we are capable of doing something and to go out and do it. We need to have confidence in ourselves, not fear anyone.”