Morocco v Namibia: Renard begins quest for third AFCON title

Herve Renard is aiming to make it a hat-trick of AFCON titles with three different sides as Morocco starts its campaign against Namibia.

Herve Renard has challenged his Morocco players to help change the face of football on the continent as he begins his bid for a third Africa Cup of Nations title.

The Frenchman is the only manager to have won the tournament with two different countries, having done so with outsider Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.

But Renard could not work his magic in the most recent edition in 2017 as Morocco crashed out to Egypt – hosts this time around – in the quarterfinals.

That was an improvement of sorts for the 1976 champions, though, as it has failed to make it out of the group stage in six of its last eight participations.

Reaching the knockout rounds will not be straightforward given that Morocco is in Group D with former winner Ivory Coast and South Africa, making this opener against minnows Namibia in Cairo all the more important.

Renard also guided the Atlas Lions to the World Cup last year – their first appearance at those finals in two decades – and he is now looking to make an impact in a wider sense in the expanded AFCON.

“This will be my seventh tournament,” said Renard, whose first taste of African football came with Zambia in 2008.

“In terms of the image of Africa, this continent needs to improve because all around the world these days they can watch the tournament.

“This is a key tournament for our football – and I say our football because I consider I am part of Africa too.

“I have been on this continent for so many years now and sometimes I don’t like the image we give to everybody so if we want more positive comments about us to come from other parts of the world then we need to improve.”

Namibia is outside the world’s top 100 in the FIFA rankings and is winless in its six previous AFCON matches – only Mozambique (12) and Benin (nine) have played more games at the tournament without a victory.

But Ricardo Mannetti’s men finished above Mozambique and Zambia in qualifying and are looking to make an impact in their third participation, 11 years on from their group-stage exit in Ghana.

“I would like to remind the big boys that even small dogs have teeth,” Mannetti warned after Namibia booked its place in the tournament.

“We will be the best underdogs at the AFCON. We are not saying that we are going there to beat any big team we will face in our group, but we will take it one game at a time.”

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