Following the conclusion of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group stage draw in Libreville, Gabon on Wednesday evening, Morocco head coach Herve Renard revealed that there will be a obvious emotional connection when coming up against the Ivory Coast and Togo.
The Atlas Lions have been handed an intriguing group; drawn in Group C alongside the reigning AFCON champions, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Sparrowhawks – coached by Renard’s former mentor Claude Le Roy.
The two-time AFCON champion with the Ivory and Zambia respectively will be hoping to lead Morocco to a first continental crown since 1976. Boasting talents like Younès Belhanda, Medhi Benatia, Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech – Morocco will be among the favourites to go all the way to the final next year.
Speaking to Cafonline.com after the draw, the 48-year-old admitted that Morocco were drawn alongside teams he hoped they would avoid in the group stages, while also making reference to his emotional connection with the Elephants and Le Roy respectively.
« It’s a very tough group. If I had to choose teams to avoid before the draw, I would’ve chosen some of the teams in our group, » Renard said in the aftermath of the draw.
« This is football and this is how the draw wants it to be. We will have to prepare ourselves very well.
« There will be an important emotional value, but we will have to ignore all that because we will face the Ivory Coast which is very difficult especially when you have had the chance to know these players, and it is technically the same group.
Renard continued: « It will be tough but we have to be competitors. The match against Togo will be even harder on me during the 90 minutes, but I will have to forget all what this man [Claude Le Roy] has done for me and do everything to win. He has given me so much in my life and not just in football, but how to evolve as a man.
« I think I will need a lot of time to speak just of the good things that Claude has brought to my life but that is not today’s topic. Let’s concentrate on the tough matches, » he concluded.