Hervé Renard

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AFCON wrap: Morocco advances; South Africa claims first win

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The thrills were relatively scaled down at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Friday as just four goals dotted a three-match landscape in Egypt.

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Tunisia 1-1 Mali

The only match with a pair of goals saw them come 10 minutes apart, as Red Bull Salzburg midfielder Diadie Samassékou staked Mali to a 60th minute lead and former Sunderland playmaker Wahbi Khazri saw his free kick deflect into the Mali goal in the 70th.

The draw opens the door for both Mauritania and Angola, as well as a blockbuster final day in Group E.

South Africa 1-0 Namibia

Bongani Zungu’s 68th goal was well-earned, with Bafana Bafana outshooting Namibia to the tune of 17-6.

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Herve Renard has won AFCON twice and already has Morocco in the knockout rounds following a 2-0 start to the tournament. Leganes striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored the lone goal of the encounter.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

2018 World Cup team preview: Morocco

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Getting to know Morocco: The 2026 World Cup hosts — I’M JUST KIDDING, CARLOS!!! — are better known as the Atlas Lions (great name) but have a tall task ahead of themselves in a first World Cup appearance in 20 years.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Once an AFCON semifinal mainstay, Morocco has had tournament trouble aside from 2004 AFCON runners-up status. Getting out of the group with Spain, Portugal, and Iran would qualify as a big success for a boss who’s used to getting the most out of his teams.

For more history on Morocco, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

What group are they in? B

Game schedule – Group B – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Friday, June 15: Morocco v Iran, St Petersburg 11 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 20: Portugal v Morocco, Moscow 8 a.m. ET
Monday, June 25: Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad 2 p.m. ET

Projected lineup (4-2-3-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Bono —–

Hakimi — Saiss — Benatia — Mendyl

Boussoufa —- El Ahmadi

Amrabat —- Belhanda —- Ziyech


Star player: Mehdi Benatia – The 56-times capped captain of the squad is a rock at the back, one of the best center backs in Serie A having previously played for Bayern Munich and AS Roma amongst others.

(Photo by Steve Haag/Getty Images)

Manager: Herve Renard – It’s a first World Cup for the French boss, though he’s got a pair of Africa Cup of Nations titles (one with Zambia and the other with Ivory Coast). Renard also had success with Angola at the 2010 AFCON, and could become a big figure for a fourth African nation with an early win over Iran, a surprise draw against Portugal or Spain, and help.

Secret weapon: Hakim Ziyech – The longtime Eredivisie star is coming off a league-leading assist season (15) with Ajax and arguably the top season overall in the league. He’ll have to get past club teammate and fellow under-the-radar star Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Iran in a neat little subplot.

Prediction: It’s a tall ask to get out of the group, but if Spain puts Portugal to the knife and Morocco beats Iran on the first group match day, the CAF side can hope to stifle Portugal in Game Two and then keep goal differential in check against Spain in the finale. It’s still looking like third place at best, but there’s a path.

Hervé Renard quits as Ivory Coast manager, expected to join French side Lille

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After accepting the job offer from the Ivory Coast national team in July 2014, French manager Hervé Renard has officially stepped down from his international post.

The former AS Cannes defender won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in February as boss of the Ivory Coast, and two years prior, he had done the same with Zambia.

The Elephants hadn’t been crowned champions since 1992, but in a nail-biting 11-round shootout against Ghana , they were finally able to snag the title as goalkeeper Boubacar Barry provided the final stop on Spanish second-division netminder Brimah Razak.

Renard is the first coach to have won the tournament with two different nations and alluded to his departure for Ligue 1 club Lille OSC, whose current coach, Rene Girard, will leave at the end of this season by “mutual agreement” with management.

From Sky Sports:

“My adventure with Ivory Coast was exceptional. And I sincerely think that the best moment to end our collaboration is after such a success,” said Renard.

“In all likelihood, I’m going to Lille barring a catastrophe.

“I hope that my future club will allow me to advance to another level, and I hope, like any self-respecting coach, to one day participate in the European Champions League.”

Despite his quick departure, Renard clearly vacated his duties on good terms with those close to the Ivory Coast.

“We thank Mr Renard for our collaboration, for the work he did at the head of the national team,” Pierre Gondo, a spokesman for the Ivorian Football Federation, said. “We expressed to him our regret to see this collaboration end so soon.”

Guus Hiddink to Netherlands headlines trio of new international hires

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Guus Hiddink is back in charge of the Dutch, with his second spell as Netherlands boss just one of a trio of international coaching hires in the past week.

Fellow Dutch coach Dick Advocaat has been tabbed to lead Serbia forward, while Herve Renard of France will take over the Ivory Coast.

All three Europeans have international experience.

Renard shepherded Zambia to a historic upset of his new squad back in the African Cup of Nations, and will take over for Sabri Lamouchi. The Ivory Coast again failed to escape the group stage at the World Cup this summer.

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Advocaat has watched over five national teams: Russia, South Korea, the Netherlands, UAE and Belgium. Serbia missed the 2014 World Cup, and hasn’t advanced past the group stage since a run to the Round of 16 in 1998.

Short-term boss Ljubinko Drulović posted a 2-1-1 record after taking over for Siniša Mihajlović, who lost more than he won in coaching Serbia to a third place Group A finish behind Belgium and Croatia in 2014 UEFA World Cup qualifying.

Hiddink says his side will play “attractive but practical football” as he tries to best the semifinal run he led in 1998. He’s led three sides into the knockout rounds of the World Cup, taking Australia into the second round in 2006 and leading South Korea’s stunning fourth-place run on home soil in 2002.

He’s also coached Russia and Turkey in addition to a club career in the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Russia and England.

And Hiddink will have a big gun beside him:

Louis van Gaal led the Netherlands to a third-place finish in Brazil, but left to take the Manchester United job.