AFCON 2017: Morocco-coach Renald returns to break Ivorian hearts

AFCON 2017: Morocco-coach Renald returns to break Ivorian hearts
Final match day in Group C saw Morocco defeat the Ivory Coast 1-0 in a scrappy encounter to proceed to the knock-out stages
2 min read
25 Jan, 2017
Morocco's French coach Herve Renard coached the Ivory Coast to 2015 AFCON Cup glory [AFP]
Final match day in Group C saw Morocco take on reigning champions the Ivory Coast.

The Ivorians were in search of a win in order to advance to the knock-out stages, while Morocco only needed a draw to proceed.

Morocco started the match playing three at the back with two attacking midfielders Nabil Dirar and Hamza Mendyl patrolling the flanks. 

Herve Renald’s match-plan proved effective early on, the Morocco coach’s experience leading the Ivory Coast to AFCON glory two years ago helping to develop a strategy to neutralise the reigning champions. 

After 20 minutes neither team had produced a chance of note, with the Ivory Coast in particular looking flat, devoid of inspiration. 

Soon afterwards Morroco’s flamboyant Deportivo de La Coruña forward Faycal Fajr struck the bar with a curling free kick that left Ivorian keeper Sylbain Gbohouh routed to the spot, before Salomon Kalou created the Ivory Coast’s first real opening after good work down the right flank in the 34th minute. 

The move appeared to awaken the Ivory Coast out of their slumber and moments later Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Wilfried Zaha almost gave “Les Éléphants” the lead after cutting in from the left. However his weak shot was held easily by Munir in the Morocco goal.

Kalou missed another presentable chance soon afterwards having been been put through on goal by Wilfried Bony, the Manchester City forward currently on loan at Stoke.

The game struggled to come to life in the second half with both teams cancelling each other out in midfield and flashes of creativity thin on the ground. 

But in the 64th minute a Morocco counter-attack ended with Youssef En-Neyseri putting Rachid Alioui through on goal and the Nimes striker chipped the onrushing Gbohou with aplomb to give Morocco a 1-0 lead and send the team’s travelling supporters into delirium. 

The Ivory Coast continued to try to carve an opening but to little avail with Munir making a number of crucial saves in the closing minutes with the match ending in a Morrocan victory.

Herve Renard, the man who brought “Les Éléphants” to AFCON glory two years ago, had mastered there downfall. 

Morocco will now join Tunisia in the knock-out stages and are set to play the winners of tomorrow’s Group D game between Egypt and Ghana. 

Meanwhile the Ivory Coast - among the pre-tournament favourites along with winless Algeria - bow out. 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here