Pressure on coach Renard after Bafana's Afcon rivals Morocco suffer surprise home defeat
Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations pool opponents Morocco suffered a surprise 1-0 home loss to lowly Gambia on Wednesday‚ which has turned the pressure up a notch on coach Herve Renard.
The Moroccans were expected to brush aside their opponents‚ who are coached by former Free State Stars tactician Tom Saintfiet‚ but fell behind to a first-half goal from Musa Barrow battled to find any rhythm in the game.
Renard did make a host of changes in the match‚ and Gambia had beaten fellow Nations Cup qualifiers Guinea last week‚ but it is still a set-back for a side looking to fulfil their enormous potential and claim a first continental success since their only previous win in 1976.
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"We are never satisfied when there is a lack of physical freshness and inspiration‚ two or three players were OK but it is about all 22‚” Renard said of his side’s lacklustre display.
The result has not surprisingly drawn criticism from fans‚ who are sceptical of Morocco’s chances at the finals in Egypt‚ despite their billing as among the pre-tournament favourites.
Renard points to his experience with Zambia‚ who he led to a surprise victory in 2012‚ as not reading too much into form heading into the competition.
"In 2012‚ I was on my way to the changeroom (after a loss) and a Zambian fan insulted me. ‘You came here to eat our taxes’‚ he told me.
"But a month later he was dancing on the tables after we won the tournament.”
Morocco will face Zambia in a final warm-up game on Sunday‚ where another defeat will only see the pressure grow on the side.
"Every time I prepare for an Africa Cup of Nations‚ preparations are difficult and we don't win matches‚" he said.
"It will be my sixth Nations Cup and I always make two friendlies‚ I don't know if it's superstition.
"I always keep a part of my heart in Zambia because we have lived an exceptional adventure for four years. I'm happy to play against them‚ but more concentrated on our preparation for Egypt.”
Renard says he does not yet know his starting XI for Morocco’s opener against Namibia on June 23‚ and has an injury concern over French-born defender Manuel Da Costa.
“He felt discomfort in his hamstring and due to his age  he preferred to be cautious‚” Renard also lifted the Nations Cup title with Ivory Coast in 2015. He will lead his side against Bafana in Cairo on July 1.