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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2019: Morocco coach Renard on the importance of winning your group

9:59 PM WAT 28/06/2019
Herve Renard Morocco
The Atlas Lions coach refuses to get ahead of himself despite his side having advanced to the knockout round in Egypt

Morocco head coach Herve Renard has revealed his side’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) objectives after beating Ivory Coast on Friday night.

With two wins out of two matches, Morocco are now being seen as favourites to challenge for the continental title.

However, Renard, who has won the competition with both Zambia and Ivory Coast in the past, admits they are only looking at improving on their 2017 exploits.

Back then, Morocco missed out on a semi-final berth as they were beaten 1-0 by Egypt in the last eight in Gabon.

“Our objective is clear, our first objective is to go further than in 2017,” Renard told reporters after the game.

“We lost against Egypt at the door of the semi-finals, a tight game where the smallest error will be decisive.

“We must keep this spirit, and to reach our objective it won’t be easy, but until then, we won’t hope for anything else.

“We saw yesterday, with Algeria playing a big game against Senegal, Egypt have six points, and this will be an Afcon very, very difficult for everyone,” he added.

Meanwhile, despite having qualified for the knockout round, Morocco have not won their group yet.

“I think we need to stay focused on first place, this was the target. We knew the first game would be difficult for us because we were not ready yet, fortunately, we got three points.

Furthermore, the Atlas Lions had to work for the three points as they narrowly edged out Ivory Coast courtesy of Youssef En-Nesyri’s 23rd-minute strike.

“Now we are improving against a strong side and it was a very tactical game, like Kamara said, you can’t make a mistake because when you make a mistake, especially with the players on the pitch, you are immediately in trouble."

Next up, Morocco will take on South Africa in their final Group D match on Monday evening.

“For the next game, I don’t know yet if the players will be ready, but we have to be concentrated as it’s only the first time,” Renard admitted.

“Today you saw the Morocco team who have shown great things for three years, it’s work, it’s automatism, so obviously when you miss one or two players, you must manage the squad, it’s not always easy.

“To manage a competition means managing a squad, it’s not always easy. It’s important, these are things I learned over the course of time. 

“First of all, we have to see South Africa one more time today (against Namibia), they did a good game against Ivory Coast, but when you make one mistake - they lost the ball once in the middle, Max Gradel won the ball, and with one cross they were behind.

“Against this kind of team, you can’t do this. We’re playing this next game on Monday, we have to recover, and be focused on the competition and the first position because it’s very important to finish first,” he concluded.