Morocco coach Hervé Renard wary of threat posed by Namibia

23 June 2019 - 14:05 By Marc Strydom
Morocco head coach Hervé Renard.
Morocco head coach Hervé Renard.
Image: Patrick HERTZOG / AFP

And there he sat‚ King Hervé‚ surveying the disorganised rabble that constituted his devoted subjects‚ and all he ruled.

When he enters a room Hervé Renard‚ Morocco's coach‚ commands attention and causes a commotion.

Then again‚ that just seems to be an endearing aspect of North African culture‚ too - that any gathering of more than about five people seems to result in a lot of shouting and gesticulating over who knows what.

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One particularly obstructive above middle-aged gentleman in the front row who would not sit down for the photographers seemed to get himself escorted out of Al Salam Stadium's press conference room.

Renard allowed himself a quizzical grin and shake of the head at a scene he'd seen a thousand times before as Africa's most successful national coach.

Arriving at the Egypt 2019 with a strong Morocco who he turned around from underachievement to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup‚ with a star player of the class of Ajax Amsterdam's Hakim Ziyech‚ and having won two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)‚ Renard can afford to look relaxed.

Namibia‚ the team Morocco face in Group D's opening match at Al Salam Stadium on Sunday (kickoff 4.30pm) are upstarts who can get under foot.

Ivory Coast have classy players at big clubs.

South Africa have an emerging generation and had a good qualifying campaign.

But the spectre that looms over Group D is Renard.

He won the 2012 Afcon with unheralded Zambia.

He won again in 2015‚ finally showing Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure-led golden generation how to convert their power into a Afcon trophy.

Can he do it again with Morocco‚ and add a second win to their lone 1976 triumph?

Can he add a North African victory to those he achieved from the south and west?

Sunday's game might give some indication.

Renard said he knows Namibian football‚ becoming acquainted with their playing style in the Cosafa Cup when he coached Zambia.

"Of course I know this part of Africa very well‚" the irritatingly sculpted and bronzed 50-year-old said.

"We used to play Cosafa against South Africa‚ against Namibia.

"So probably it was a very good experience.

"I played against Namibia three times. And we have to be ready.

"Because sometimes football in Africa technically is not the best but physically it's very difficult‚ especially in the first game."

Ricardo Mannetti's plucky Namibia - with Premier Soccer League-based players such as Golden Arrows goalkeeper Maximillian Mbaeva and Highlands Park attacker Peter Shalulile - will try to frustrate Morocco in searing heat‚ which might cool by the second half.

"We know that there is no easy match‚" Renard said.

"The first game [Egypt's 1-0 win against Zimbabwe] really revealed that.

"Of course the first match is always the most difficult. And we are going to have that in our first game too.

"We might‚ of course‚ face some surprises.

"But we are going to see [on Sunday]. We are going to be ready with all the standard required for the Africa Cup of Nations."

Bafana Bafana meet Ivory Coast in Monday's second Group D game‚ also at Al Salam Stadium‚ also at 4.30pm.