Herve Renard reckons Ghana is close to winning an AFCON if they can change ‘something small’ and be ‘a bit lucky’. The Frenchman has been a resounding success in the Cup of Nations, winning titles with Zambia and Ivory Coast over three Nations Cups between 2012 and 2015.
He is unbeaten in three over three Nations Cups in that period and takes Morocco to Gabon 2017 hoping to boost his reputation as one of the best foreign coaches ever to manage in Africa.
He spoke to Michael Oti Adjei on the sidelines of Morocco’s pre-tournament camp in Al Ain about his plans for the competition
What would represent the ultimate target for you in Gabon?
When you start a competition like the Africa Cup of Nations, I think everyone is thinking of winning the cup. I think with some teams it is difficult. For instance Morocco has not gone past the quarter final in a long time and that is the target. Afterwards, the road is open.
Is the talent available for Morocco to do well though given the recent wretched Nations Cup history?
We have a lot of talents but unfortunately we have some key players injured including Boufal. These are four very important players for us who would be missing but we have to be strong, maybe change something and then see. What is important in a tournament is team spirit and I think we have the team spirit.
I think the most important thing is the team spirit. If you don’t have the right squad with the team spirit, you won’t win anything even when you have the best players.
You have become synonymous with the Nations Cup in recent years. What has been your best experience of the competition so far?
It will be my sixth nations cup already since I arrived in Ghana. In 2008, it was a fantastic experience. It was my first step in Africa and the atmosphere was amazing. It is one of my best memories. After, there are the two finals. When the final whistle goes and you win the trophy, it is amazing. You can’t imagine the feeling.
In those two finals you refer to, you have lived through an incredible amount of emotion. One moment you were two down to Ghana on penalties and lost. How do you deal with the intense emotions?
We are not actors. We try to talk to them, prepare the players, but afterwards there is little you can do. Sometimes you have to be a bit lucky especially when you are down by two penalties, there must be something special from somewhere. I don’t know where but this is my destiny. If my career will stop today, I will say it was fantastic. I have to continue. I hope for more titles because this is more important.
To win another title in Gabon you must first get out of a group that includes Congo DR and a Togo team coached by your mentor Claude Le Roy.
It is a tough group but I feel all the groups are very tough. It will be emotional with Claude Le Roy because I think without him I won’t be here. Ivory Coast and the players are amazing. When we met two months ago in world cup qualifiers, it was difficult emotionally. When we meet Ivory Coast again, we would put friendship aside and then afterwards, we can share a good drink.
Morocco have often been compared to Belgium; huge potential but with a disappointing tournament record. How do you get that right?
We are not the favourites but we have the potential. I have always told the players; think about the fact it is your last Afcon and if you never achieve anything with your national team, something significant with the national team, something will be missing from your career. It doesn’t matter what you win at club level; you have to give everything for the national team because it something special.
Does it then intrigue you that Ghana has not managed this in a long while? What could be missing?
It is missing something but it is not a big thing. It is difficult to judge from the outside but Ghana always has big potential, always with good players. Now the team is very different but at every Afcon, there is a chance for Ghana who normally are in the last four. Maybe they have to believe in themselves a bit more and be a bit lucky.
There are a lot of people have been wondering whether you could be the man to install that belief, bring that luck and get Ghana the Nations Cup title?
In life we never know what can happen. I will never refuse an offer from the Ghana federation depending on the timing, of course. When you are under contract it is not possible. But one day it will be nice for me. I will never forget that it was where I started. I learnt a lot with Le Roy there. I don’t think even if I won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, I had a better team than the Ghana team of 2008. This team was fantastic. When I first saw Essien, Muntari, I was impressed because they were fantastic. We were unlucky. Even now I remember everything in the semi-finals and how Cameroon scored.
Would you be doing the white shirt in Gabon?
Yes I am. There is a story around this shirt and you know we are superstitious so it is important. In 2010 I wore one light blue shirt against Cameroon and we lost. Afterwards I decided to go back to the white shirt and we have been excellent since. I have no intention of changing that.
By Michael Oti Adjei|TV3 Sports|Ghana