If nothing else, the World Cup opens our eyes to life beyond the big European leagues. We are often blind to those footballers and managers that ply their trade far away from the spotlight. For example, who amongst us would ever have heard of Roger Milla were it not for his exploits in the 1990 World Cup? The same can be said of managers who forge successful international careers and yet have a fraction of the fame that Alan Pardew enjoys. Here we profile Hervé Renard, manager of Morocco, the Lions of the Atlas.
For many of us, the World Cup will be watched from the comfort of our couches and homes, likely leaving very distinct ass grooves in the furniture come the end of the competition. We will be totally at the mercy of the director in terms of the shots we will see. Granted, most of the footage will be of the football but increasingly we are shown the antics from the sideline as animated bosses patrol their technical area or pick their nose (we’re looking at you, Joachim Löw). One particular boss is likely to catch the attention not only as a result of his booming voice and impassioned demeanour but also because of his crisp white shirts and dashing looks. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Hervé Renard, manager of Morocco.
Probably the most successful modern international manager you’ve never heard of, Renard holds the unique claim of being the only coach to have won the African Cup of Nations with two different countries, Zambia and the Côte d’Ivoire, in 2012 and 2015 respectively. A long and largely undecorated playing career as a defender in the French leagues gave little indication of the management career that was to follow. Mind you, it should be pointed out that Morocco’s successful qualification for this World Cup, their first World Cup in 20 years, saw them finish on 12 points with not a goal conceded in six matches so there’s obviously defensive nous in the old dog yet. Having Juventus mainstay, Medhi Benatia, in the centre of defence doesn’t hurt either.
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A Giant in the Shadows
His has been the road less travelled in terms of his managerial posts to this point. In addition to the three African teams mentioned, he had a coaching role with Ghana, as well as managing and coaching clubs in France, Vietnam, Algeria, China and England. With the notable exception of his two seasons at the helm at AS Cherbourg, he has never excelled at club management, judging by the brevity of time afforded him at all other teams he has had dealings with. However, much like his German counterpart Joachim Löw, Renard seems to be a beast cut from a different cloth to most other managers and has found his true calling at international level.
The challenge for Morocco in the World Cup is that they find themselves in a charming group whose other inhabitants are Iran, Portugal and Spain. Whilst they find themselves at significantly shorter odds than Iran to progress, the Iberian challenge looks difficult in the extreme. Their only realistic hope is to beat Iran and then look to an unlikely result or two against Spain and Portugal. A draw against Portugal isn’t impossible and if they can get to four points and keep a good goals-against portfolio in their favour, you never know. It’s unlikely that they’ll progress but it is not impossible and Renard will appreciate that they have a chance, however slight.
What we can say for certain is that, whatever happens, Renard’s profile should be significantly enhanced following this tournament whether it’s as a result of Morocco causing a massive upset in the group stages or, more likely, the television cameras focusing on his dashing looks and boisterous carry-on. If you fancy a flutter on the Lions of the Atlas, the most fruitful market at the moment might be the Top African Team wherein, out of a pool of five teams, you can back Morocco at 6/1 with BetVictor.