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‘I’m not Morocco’s trump card’, says Renard

Herve Renard’s Morocco scraped past Namibia 1-0 in their opening game in Egypt © AFP / Ahmed HASAN

CAIRO, Egypt, Jun 27Morocco coach Herve Renard said Thursday he does not see himself as the key to Africa Cup of Nations success ahead of an intriguing match against his former side Ivory Coast.

The Frenchman guided the Ivorians to the title in 2015 to become the first coach to win the tournament with two different countries, having led outsiders Zambia to a surprise victory three years earlier.

“I’m not Morocco’s trump card. I’m lucky to be the coach of a Morocco team with quality players,” Renard said ahead of Friday’s Group D showdown in Cairo.

“In my career I had the good fortune to be coach of this Ivory Coast team … I’ve simply been lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and the Ivory Coast will always be a magnificent memory.”

Since transforming the perennial underachievers into African champions four years ago, Renard has tormented them as coach of Morocco.

He ensured the 2017 title defence of the Ivorians did not last beyond the first round, and inflicted more misery in 2018 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 triumph in Abidjan taking Morocco to Russia at their expense.

“If I had a secret I would try to put it in place tomorrow, but each game against the Ivory Coast is more than difficult,” said Renard.

“The past doesn’t hold much importance. We have to focus on the game tomorrow which isn’t just any group game. I think the goal of the two teams is to go much further in the competition.”

“The most important thing is qualification,” he added. “Of course it’s often preferrable to finish in first place but sometimes you don’t get to choose, especially in a top level battle in Africa like this one.”

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Playmaker Younes Belhanda, who missed the 1-0 win over Namibia due to injury, said Morocco would not purely focus on stopping the in-demand Nicolas Pepe.

“He’s a very talented player. We didn’t find out about him this year but this year … he’s been at the top,” said Belhanda. “Of course he’s a threat but there’s not just him.”

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