By The Atlas Lions, Jan 23 2017 12:14PM
Having guided the Ivory Coast to glory at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, Herve Renard is now hoping to end his former side's defence of the trophy when they face his Morocco team on Tuesday.
The script could not have been better written, with Renard's Morocco and the Elephants clashing in a winner takes all final Group C showdown in the northern Gabonese town of Oyem, kicking off at 20:00pm local time (1900 GMT).
The Atlas Lions have not made it beyond the group stage at the Cup of Nations since reaching the final in 2004 but a 3-1 win against Togo on Friday put them in a position to progress to the last eight.
A draw would also favour them, while DR Congo and Togo meet in the night's other game in Port-Gentil.
The Ivorians, though, have no choice but to win if they are to advance after drawing their first two matches.
"In 2015 we found ourselves in the same situation with two draws and we won 1-0 against Cameroon," recalled Renard of a slow start to his triumphant campaign at the helm of the Ivory Coast in Equatorial Guinea.
He left that role to become coach of Lille in his native France, but a disappointing and short-lived experience in Ligue 1 precipitated a return to the African scene with Morocco.
Here he is hoping to win the trophy for a third time having also triumphed with Zambia in Gabon in 2012.
Now coached by Renard's fellow Frenchman Michel Dussuyer, the Ivorians have so far drawn with both Togo and DR Congo but the noises coming out of their camp remain optimistic.
"We are calm. It is those outside the squad who are more worried," insisted Paris Saint-Germain defender Serge Aurier.
"We are here and we are trying to progress from one game to the next. We will do everything to try to qualify."
At the same time as that game, DR Congo and Togo clash on a shocking pitch in the port city of Port-Gentil.
The task appears to be a simple one for DR Congo, who are top with four points and need only a draw to be certain of progressing to the last eight, although a win will confirm them as group winners.
Third at the 2015 Cup of Nations, the Leopards lost star man Yannick Bolasie to injury barely a month before the tournament began and were then rocked by a row over unpaid bonuses on the eve of the competition.
'Potential banana skin'
But they have been impressive so far in beating Morocco and drawing with the Ivory Coast, and coach Florent Ibenge is now hoping to finish the job.
He had a word of warning for his players, however, saying: "Since the beginning I have said that Togo are more than tough opponents.
"They remind me of our team in 2015, so I am very wary. That is why I say that we are not through yet. This match is a potential banana skin," added Ibenge, who saw full-back Jordan Ikoko come off hurt against the Ivorians.
Togo are bottom of the group and must win if they are to stay in the competition.
They will however have much of the crowd behind them thanks to the sizeable Togolese community based in Port-Gentil.
They already gave the team a noisy and colourful welcome as they arrived on Sunday at the hotel they are sharing with the Ghana delegation.
"If we win our third match we will be through. Our position will be much more comfortable than in qualifying," said Togo coach Claude Le Roy, whose side scraped into the finals as one of the best runners-up in the qualifying campaign.
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 21 2017 7:29PM
(Morocco World News) Rabat – Morocco’s captain Medhi Benatia is paying tribute to the efforts of his teammates following the Moroccan national team’s 3-1 victory over Togo in the 2017 African Cup of Nations on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, Benatia said that “the current Moroccan team is harmonious and able to be victorious,” and noted that “the African experience of Morocco’s coach Hervé Renard helped the players put on a good performance against Togo.”
Benatia acknowledges, however, that Morocco’s performance in the tournament so far has not been as satisfactory as everyone would like it to be. “Morocco has not achieved any satisfactory results thus far and Morocco’s match against Côte D’Ivoire on January 24 will be difficult.”
Having said this, the international player quickly returned to praising his teammates, saying that the Moroccan players “perform their duties from the very bottom of their hearts. Therefore, there is no fear about their match against Côte D’Ivoire. They can obtain three points and qualify for the next round.”
“Morocco’s victory against Togo was a gift for the Moroccan people, who have stood by their national team over the past while,” Benatia continued. “We need to focus on our team now, before facing Côte D’Ivoire.”
Although Togo’s Matthieu Dossevi managed to give his team an early goal at the 5th minute, Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz helped the team come back quickly by scoring the equalizer at the 14 minute mark. Roman Saiss then doubled the scoring at the 21st minute before Youssef En-Nesyri sealed the match for Morocco with a third goal at the 71st minute.
Morocco’s win against Togo has restored the faith of Moroccans in their national team after they lost their opening match against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday.
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 21 2017 5:40PM
(BBC Africa Sport in Gabon) Morocco coach Herve Renard revealed he will be fighting his emotions when he takes on former team Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday.
Two years after leading Ivory Coast to the title, Renard will face them with a quarter-finals spot at stake.
"I try to forget, because when I saw all the Ivorians before our World Cup qualifier two months ago, it was very emotional for me," he said.
"We have to fight and play to win... we have to be strong."
Renard's Morocco side set up a fascinating finale to Group C by beating Togo 3-1 on Friday, following the Ivorians' 2-2 draw with DR Congo earlier the same day.
DR Congo lead the table on four points, Morocco have three, Ivory Coast two and Togo one.
A win over Ivory Coast in Oyem will secure Morocco a place in the last eight, whilst denying the champions qualification. But all four teams in the pool still have a chance of qualifying.
Morocco have made life difficult for themselves in Gabon, losing their first game 1-0 to Dr Congo and then going behind to Togo on Friday.
Renard praised his players for their resilience after they fought back from what looked to be a desperate position.
"It was very difficult psychologically - when you lose the first game, even if you played a good game, [then] you are down after 10 minutes," Renard said.
"These players are very strong - we scored three goals, it was very important for the confidence."
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 20 2017 9:26PM
(SuperSport.com) Morocco successfully bounced back to winning ways at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with a 3-1 win over group C opponents Togo at the Stade d'Oyem in the Gabonese city of Oyem on Friday evening.
Mathieu Dossevi had given Claude Le Roy's men an early lead, but goals from Aziz Bouhaddouz, Romain Saïss and Youssef En-Nesyri secured all three points for the north Africans.
Morocco next face defending champions, the Ivory Coast, on Tuesday while Togo take on the Democratic Republic of Congo at the same time.
The Atlas Lions had dominated possession from the kick-off, only to concede the opening goal with five minutes on the clock. The Sparrow Hawks finding the back of the net with their first attack.
A thrilling counter-attack finished off by Dossevi, who fired Floyd Ayite's decisive pass into the back of the net with great aplomb.
Togo's joy though was short lived, as Bouhaddouz pulled the Atlas Lions level with 14 minutes on the clock. Kossi Agassa guilty of misjudging Fayçal Fajr's corner-kick; leaving the German based forward with an easy finish.
Romain Saïss put Morocco 2-1 up seven minutes later. Fajr was the provider once more from a set-piece as the Wolverhampton Wanderers forward nodded home following good movement in the box.
The Sparrow Hawks almost hit straight back with Munir Mohand having to be at his very best to deny Emmanuel Adebayor when the former Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City man made easy work of Medhi Benatia.
Adebayor went close once more following the interval, but having out-jumped Benatia, the burly forward directed his attempt over the crossbar in the 55th minute of the game.
Herve Renard's men duly doubled their lead with En-Nesyri directing a powerful shot past Agassa in the 72nd minute. The Togo goal-minder had looked suspect all day, and was caught cold once more by the second-half substitute.
Togo probed in the final exchanges and were unlucky not to pull a goal back through Ayite, as Morocco eventually held on for all three points.
Morocco (2) 3 (Bouhaddouz 14' Saïss 21' En-Nesyri 72')
Togo (1) 1 (Dossevi 5')
Morocco: Mohand; Mendyl, Da Costa, Benatia, Saïss - El Ahmadi, Fajr (Ait Bennasser 81'), Boussoufa - El Kaddouri (En-Nesyri 60'), Dirar, Bouhaddouz (Alioui 90')
Togo: Agassa; Djene, Ouro-Akoriko, Romao, Gakpe - Bebou, Atakora (Agbégniadan 89'), Ayite, Dossevi (Segbefia 83') - Laba (Boukari 73'), Adebayor
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 20 2017 6:19PM
Final whistle and first three points for Morocco!
3 minutes of stoppage time
89' Rachid Alioui replaced Bouhaddouz
87' Free-kick for Morocco
80' Youssef Ait Bennasser replaced Faycel Fajr
76' Save Munir
72' En-Nesiry scores for Morocco 3-1 from a well placed shot
64' Corner for Morocco
60' Youssef En-Nesyri replaced Omar El Kaddouri
59' El Ahmadi shoots wide
57' Free-kick for Morocco
56' Boussoufa booked
54' Corner for Morocco
54' El Kaddouri's shot converted to corner
50' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Boussoufa
49' Free-kick for Togo in the hands of Munir
46' Free-kick for Morocco taken by Fajr, it went wide
Second half underway!
See all first half goals: https://www.facebook.com/TheAtlasLions/videos/1361350663887395/
41' Good long shot Boussoufa
40' Corner for Morocco
30' Corner for Morocco
27' Dirar almost scored the 3-1 but his header went wide
24' Another good save Munir
24' Save Munir
20' Goal for Morocco by good header of Romain Saiss, assist Fajr
15' Goal for Morocco by good header of Aziz Bouhaddouz, score is 1-1
14' Corner for Morocco
5' Goal for Togo scored by Dossevi
4' Corner for Morocco
Match is underway!
Morocco vs Togo
Competition: AFCON 2017
Location: Oyem, Gabon
Morocco starting line up:
Munir El Kajoui-Hamza Mendyl-Marouane Da Costa-Mehdi Benatia (C)-Romain Saiss-Karim El Ahmadi-Faycal Fajr-Mbark Boussoufa-Omar El Kaddouri-Nabil Dirar-Aziz Bohaddouz
Kick off: 19h00 GMT, 20h00 CET
Live streaming video: http://www.yalla-shoot.com/live/10263/morocco-vs-togo.html49'
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 20 2017 10:49AM
(AFP) French coaches Herve Renard and Claude le Roy loom large over the key Africa Cup of Nations Group C clash between Morocco and Togo in Oyem on Friday.
Renard, a Cup of Nations winner with Zambia in 2012 and the Ivory Coast in 2015, was hired by Morocco last year and given a mandate to reach the semifinals.
Right now, a last-four place must seem a long way off for the blond, bronzed 48-year-old former Paris rubbish collector who always wears a white shirt on matchdays.
Morocco could not translate possession into goals three days ago and a goalkeeping blunder by Munir Mohamedi gifted the Democratic Republic of Congo a 1-0 win.
That loss left the Moroccans pointless and bottom of a table headed by DR Congo with three points followed by title-holders the Ivory Coast and Togo with one apiece.
Veteran Le Roy is at the Cup of Nations a record ninth time and although he can boast of just one title -- with Cameroon in 1988 -- he has failed to reach the knockout phase only once.
Cameroon, Senegal, DR Congo, Ghana and Congo Brazzaville all benefited from the 68-year-old with a fondness for dark jackets and t-shirts.
Togo are the latest beneficiaries of wisdom gathered over three decades in Africa and they were never overawed when forcing a 0-0 draw with an Ivorian side that appeared much stronger on paper.
When Le Roy coached 2008 hosts and bronze medallists Ghana, his assistant was then unknown Renard. It proved a fruitful relationship for the younger Frenchman.
"He has given me so much in my life," Renard said after the finals draw. "Not just about football, but how to evolve as a man.
"I would need a lot of time to speak about the good things that Claude has brought to my life."
Le Roy was equally complimentary recently about the man he mentored and turned into the most sought-after coach in Africa with Morocco dumping ex-star Badou Zaki to hire Renard.
"Herve knows how to lead a group and likes his players," said Le Roy.
"Liking your players and displaying a great sense of justice and understanding is the best way to work."
For Renard and Le Roy the pre-match emphasis would have been on finishing as Morocco and Togo created few chances in their opening matches.
Morocco have failed to score in their last three competitive matches dating back to October and recently out-of-favour Youssef El Arabi might get a start.
Veteran Emmanuel Adebayor, clubless since leaving Crystal Palace last May, remains the main Togolese threat.
DR Congo, less favoured than the Ivory Coast and Morocco before the group kicked off, will seal a quarterfinals place if they defeat the defending champions in the first match of a double-header.
It is a repeat of a 2015 semifinal in Equatorial Guinea which the Ivorians won 3-1 before edging Ghana 9-8 on penalties after a goalless title decider to win the competition a second time.
Both teams would have preferred to play later as the late-afternoon heat had many Ivory Coast and Togo players wearing sweat-saturated shirts.
France-born Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer, who succeeded Renard, is demanding greater "intensity" from a side lacking several key 2015 winners.
Midfielder and captain Yaya Toure has retired from international football to concentrate on his career with Manchester City and China-based winger Gervinho is injured.
"There is no need for panic," stressed Dussuyer after the Togo draw. "We have two matches left and two victories will assure us of a place in the knockout stage."
Five Morocco v Togo facts:
- The countries will be meeting at the Cup of Nations for the first time - one of only six such fixtures among the 24 during the first round in Gabon.
- Despite being widely regarded for decades as an African football power, Morocco have won the Cup of Nations only once, and that success came 41 years ago in Ethiopia.
- The 1976 Cup of Nations was the only one composed entirely of mini-leagues and Morocco won the decisive group by one point thanks to a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Guinea.
- Togo have progressed beyond the first round only once and lost 1-0 after extra time to Burkina Faso in a 2013 quarterfinal in South Africa.
- Both countries are coached by Cup of Nations-winning Frenchmen. Twice successful Herve Renard handles Morocco and one-time winner Claude le Roy guides Togo.
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 19 2017 2:19PM
Karim El Ahmadi is desperate for Africa Cup of Nations success and hopes Morocco can bounce back from their opening defeat at the hands of DR Congo when they take on Togo on Friday.
Herve Renard's men were among the favourites heading into the tournament, but disappointed in their Group C opener as DR Congo proved to be too strong.
They desperately need a win against Togo to keep their chances of reaching the knockout stages alive and El Ahmadi has stressed they must act as a team and adapt if they are to succeed.
"I want to achieve something with Morocco. That is my goal and what the entire team wants," El Ahmadi told NOS.
"We are all hungry for success. It is about time.
"I think we are among the favourites, in particular when you look at our individual quality. But a lot of things play a role at the Africa Cup of Nations. It is going to be very tough.
"You have to be strong as a team. We have a lot of individual talent, but you face bad pitches and physically strong opponents at the AFCON. We have to adapt."
Whereas Morocco disappointed on matchday one, Togo impressed as they held champions Ivory Coast to a scoreless draw.
Captained by veteran striker Emmanuel Adebayor, they put in a solid shift at the back and looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
Adebayor is hoping to build on that performance versus the Atlas Lions. A win would put Togo in pole position for a surprise spot in the quarter-finals.
"We have a big chance but have to keep our heads," he told The Guardian. "At 4pm on Monday people at home said we were going to lose 5-0 against Ivory Coast. At 7pm they said we were going to be champions."
PLAYER TO WATCH
Morocco - Mbark Boussoufa
The 32-year-old is one of the most experienced players in Renard's squad and remains a key figure for his country even if he no longer plies his trade in one of Europe's top leagues.
Boussoufa has the ability to open up a game with one moment of individual brilliance, with his dribbles and passing skills a joy to behold if he is on top of his game.
The attacking midfielder was unable to make the difference versus DR Congo and he will be fired up to give a better account of himself against Togo.
Togo - Mathieu Dossevi
Emmanuel Adebayor remains Togo's main man in attack, but Dossevi is prove that there is much more to Claude Le Roy's side than the former Arsenal striker.
The Standard Liege ace impressed in the scoreless draw with Ivory Coast with his clever movement and good runs down the wing, even if he did not manage to find the net.
Dossevi will be hoping to put in another performance versus Morocco, this time managing to add to to his tally for Togo and spring another surprise.
KEY OPTA STATS:
- This is Morocco's 16th AFCON participation; their only title dates back to 1976.
- Meanwhile, this is Togo's eighth AFCON. They have only reached the knockout stages once in their previous seven participations; it was in 2013 when they went out in the quarter-finals.
- Only two of Morocco's 15 shots in their opening defeat against DR Congo (0-1) were on target.
- Togo have won only one of their last 11 games in the tournament (drawing four, losing six). They have also failed to score in seven of their last 11 games at the AFCON.
- Morocco claimed victory in the most recent encounter between these sides (2-1, 2016); Togo had gone five matches unbeaten against them immediately before that run.
Read more at http://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/morocco-v-togo-el-ahmadi-hungry-success#lfTRO3Ggg1ZKAopX.99
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 16 2017 10:15PM
(Sky Sports) Junior Kabananga scored the only goal as 10-man DR Congo claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Morocco in their Africa Cup of Nations opener in Oyem.
After a build-up blighted by off-field issues, DR Congo dug deep and snatched victory after Kabananga pounced on a goalkeeping error on 55 minutes.
Substitute Joyce Lomalisa was sent off for a second bookable offence nine minutes from time and Gabriel Zakuani also limped through the latter stages but Florent Ibenge's side held on.
An opening Group C victory for DR Congo seemed unlikely as Morocco made a superb start. Aziz Bouhaddouz headed wide in the first minute and Mbark Boussoufa went closer moments later with a shot that hit the bar.
Boussoufa fired another effort wide and Manuel da Costa also missed the target with a header.
DR Congo did not start to seriously threaten until close to half an hour gone when Cedric Bakambu forced a save from Munir Mohand and Chancel Mbemba shot wide.
The complexion of the game changed 10 minutes into the second half when Mohand decided to clear a low cross from the left with his feet rather than gathering. He succeeded only in presenting a chance to Kabananga that was lapped up.
Morocco struggled to get back into the game but were offered a potential lifeline when Lomalisa, booked earlier for time-wasting, was dismissed after poor challenge on Faycal Fajr.
Youssef El-Arabi went close to grabbing a late equaliser but Ley Matampi saved his powerful header.
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 16 2017 5:10PM
6 minutes of stoppage time
86' Good chance for El Arabi
81' Mutambala from Congo sent off
78' Carcela replaced with Youssef El Arabi
73' Romain Saiss replaced with Faycal Fajr
70' Good chance for En-Nasiry
68' Da Costa booked
66' Carcela's free-kick off target
60' El Kaddouri is replaced with Youssef En-Nasiry
55' RD Congo take the lead 0-1
Second half underway!
27' Save Munir
17' Da Costa's header off target
3' Boussoufa hit the woodwork!
Match is underway!
Morocco starting line up:
Munir El Kajoui-Hamza Mendyl-Marouane Da Costa-Mehdi Benatia (C)-Ghanem Saiss-Karim El Ahmadi-Mbark Boussoufa-Omar El Kaddouri-Nabil Dirar-Aziz Bouhaddouz-Mehdi Carcela.
Subs: Faycal Fajr-Youssef Ait Bennasser-Youssef El Arabi-Yassine Bounou-Fouad Chafik-Yassine El Kharroubi-Mounir Obbadi-Faysal Fajr-Rachid Alioui-Khalid Boutaib-Amin Attouchi
Coach: Herve Renard
Competition: AFCON 2017
Kick off: 19h00 GMT, 20h00 CET
Location: Oyem, Gabon
Live streaming video: http://www.yalla-shoot.com/live/10240/congo-dr-vs-morocco.html
By The Atlas Lions, Jan 16 2017 12:25PM
(Goal.com) Our good friends at Opta have complied all the numbers and stats you need to assess the teams’ chances ahead of today’s Afcon Group C clash at Stade de Oyem.
-Morocco are unbeaten against DR Congo at the African Cup of Nations (W1 D3). All three of their draws have ended 1-1, whilst the other was a 1-0 win for the Atlas Lions.
-This is Morocco’s 16th AFCON participation. Their only title dates back to 1976, when they beat DR Congo (Zaire as they were then called) in the group stages (1-0).
-Morocco have failed to make it out of the group stages in six of their last seven AFCON participations, the only exception coming in 2004 when they were beaten finalists against Tunisia.
-Morocco have won only two of their last 13 AFCON games (D5 L6).
-Meanwhile, this is DR Congo’s 18th AFCON participation. They have won it twice (1968 as Congo-Kinshasa, 1974 as Zaire).
-DR Congo have won only one of their last 12 AFCON games, of which eight were draws (L3).
-DR Congo’s last two AFCON participations have seen them draw all six of their group games (2013, 2015).
-Six of DR Congo’s last seven goals at the AFCON have been scored after the 60th minute.
-Dieumerci Mbokani has scored five and assisted one of DR Congo’s last nine AFCON goals.
-DR Congo manager Florent Ibengé is taking charge of his second AFCON as manager. In 2015, he took his home nation to third place.
-This is Hervé Renard’s fifth AFCON as manager – he’s only lost one of his 19 games (W8 D10). The Morocco boss is the only one to have won the tournament with two different teams (Zambia in 2012, Ivory Coast in 2015).
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