Morocco/Togo: Atlas Lions Face Must-Win Afcon Match Friday

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If Herve Renard is to realise his dream of a third African Nations Cup title then a positive result for his Moroccan side against Togo in their second Group C clash in Oyem on Friday (19h00 GMT) is a must.

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Only Ghanaian coach Charles Gyamfi and the Egyptian legend Hassan Shehata have managed to win three titles, with Frenchman Renard hoping to join that illustrious group in Gabon.

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He has previously lifted the trophy against all odds with Zambia in 2012, and then repeated the feat with Cote d’Ivoire two years ago.

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But a 1-0 defeat to DR Congo in their opener is a major set-back in a pool that also includes the Ivorians, and anything less than victory over Togo will make a quarterfinal place unlikely.

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There were positives for Renard in defeat. His side dominated large parts of the match against the Congolese, but that counts for little if they are not more clinical in the final third.

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“In a competition like the Nations Cup, it is important not to get discouraged, there will be many twists and turns, it is for us to put ourselves in a good position when we face Cote d’Ivoire in our third game,” he said.

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Morocco can point to some recent history for inspiration; they hosted Togo in a friendly international as recently as November and ran out 2-1 winners.

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Of course, a major side-show to the game will be the relationship between Renard and his Togolese counterpart, coach Claude Le Roy.

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Le Roy mentored his adversary for many years when Renard acted as his assistant in China, at the English side, Cambridge United, and with the Ghana national side, before he become coach of Zambia for the first time in 2008.

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Le Roy has been effusive in his praise of his former pupil, whom he hopes will not now turn master.

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“He [Renard] knows how to lead a group and he likes his players,” Le Roy said. “And when you love players without giving them gifts, with a great sense of justice and understanding the way they feel, this is the best way to work.”

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