As the competition enters the decisive knockout stage, Herve Renard says Morocco is “obliged” to at its best and “live up to expectations.”
Rabat – Ahead of this Friday’s clash with Benin in the first knockout game of the 2019 CAN, Morocco’s Herve Renard is urging his team to rise to the challenge and keep their reputation as a serious contender for the continental crown.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference on July 4, Renard urged his squad to raise the quality and intensity of their performance, arguing that “another competition starts now.”
Renard said: “This is another competition that starts now.” He spoke of the knockout stage is being a long walk where access to the next stage passes through “flawless” performance in the previous. The imagery was an apt description.
At this stage, defeat comes with an immediate consequence, and there will be little room for decent or lukewarm performances.
To advance in the tournament and hope to be counted among serious contenders, Renard stressed, the Atlas Lions will need to strain physically and mentally and meet the load of expectations from Moroccan fans.
“From now on,” the Moroccan explained, “we will need to start each match with a different attitude.” But, he emphasized, the overarching goal will remain unchanged: “To remain focused and concede the fewest mistakes possible.” Realizing such a goal, Renard went on to add, demands devotion,“ a flawless teamwork,” and an “unfailing commitment.”
Benin, Morocco’s challenger in Friday’s first round of 16 games, showed glimpses of defensive maturity and exemplary mentality.
The Squirrels, as the Beninese squad is nicknamed, progressed to the next stage after drawing all three of its group matches.
While such results speak of a team that struggles to score, the performances highlight a compact and disciplined team that plays with a keen awareness of its limitations.
Finding the crack that will make them crumble will be a tough challenge, Renard conceded. He said the Squirrels’ style of play shows “they are not here by accident.”
Even as he acknowledged Benin’s tactical maturity, Renard seemed convinced that Morocco is the better side and should be able to win, barring any repeat of the usual sporting upsets.
Victory against Benin is “a must” if the Moroccan Lions “want to live up to their ambitions,” Renard concluded.