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The Atlas Lions

Les Lions de l'Atlas

Latest News of The Atlas Lions

By The Atlas Lions, Feb 28 2019 03:33PM

(CAFOnline.com) As the Total African Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 approaches, the Moroccan coach speaks to cafonline.com to discuss the state of his team's fitness. The Atlas Lions, already qualified, will face Malawi in the last day of qualifying before a gala match against Argentina in Tangier.


February always has a special flavour for you as it corresponds to the titles won in 2012 with Zambia and Ivory Coast in 2015. What do you remember about these two titles?


Hervé Renard: "These are memories engraved forever in my heart! It's indescribable. You have to live it. I never thought I'd be working on the African continent and it's thanks to Claude Leroy. There's also a small luck factor that I benefited from. ”


What is your state of mind after this third CAF Coach of the Year award?


Hervé Renard: "It's an honour because it's the third time I've won it since 2008, when I became head coach. In ten years, it's exceptional! It is also the recognition of collective work because I work with high quality assistants and federations that have given me the means to work. In Morocco, I have a lot of people working for me. You have to know how to delegate, and you also have to constantly question yourself. What motivates a coach is to go out and get titles."


You recently attended the Asian Cup of Nations won by Qatar. What are your impressions?


Hervé Renard: "I was pleasantly surprised by their team even though there are naturalized players. There is mainly a work done by Spaniards in recent years. Qatar has been preparing for its World Cup in 2022 for a long time and this trophy won against Japan is significant."


Do you still think that Egypt and Senegal are the favourites for this 2019 CAN?

Hervé Renard: "By showing humility, it's very difficult to win a CAN and I know what I'm talking about. Statistically, football lovers know that Egypt is a great country. Especially when you can count on Mohamed Sala. And even more so at home with strong popular support. It will be very difficult for all their opponents. Which team today has individual qualities like Sadio Mané or Koulibaly for Senegal ? Let us not forget also the Ivory Coast of Nicolas Pépé and Serge Aurier, the defending champions of Cameroon or Nigeria. I'd rather not be a braggart for Morocco but make the opponents fall on the field."


Has the location of the preparation course for the CAN 2019 been decided?


Hervé Renard: "The Royal Moroccan Federation is building a magnificent national technical centre. It's exceptional in quality! Will it be finished on time by June? I hope so and for the moment we are planning our preparation in Rabat. Otherwise, we'll find a plan B, but it's not current."


Morocco, already qualified, face Malawi in the final day of the Total AFCON 2019 qualifiers. What do you expect from this game?


Hervé Renard: "This will allow us to see some players who have not worn the national team jersey much. Not counting Argentina, it is the last official meeting before the preparation of the AFCON in June. It is also important to collect points for the FIFA ranking. It's always difficult to play in Malawi."


The Moroccan press reports that elements such as Noussair Mazraoui, Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri and Hamza Mendyl, who would be made available to the U23 team for the decisive confrontation against the DRC, are missing. Can you confirm that?


Hervé Renard: "We're going to make one last point with the U23 coach and the DTN. But I will not leave them all at disposal, contrary to what may have been said prematurely. I make sporting decisions and if I don't talk, it's not official."



Could Yunis Abdelhamid, author of a great season with Reims, be called?


Hervé Renard: "I recently had him on the phone and congratulated him on the excellent season he is having. He is a boy who succeeds in winning despite the transition from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1. Not only is he a regular player, but he has also become a key member of this Reims team. Congratulations to him, he will be a valuable contribution to Morocco."


Another good point for Moroccan football: Osama Idrissi will play for the Atlas Lions


Hervé Renard: "My greatest satisfaction is to have met a very professional player during our last internship. I was impressed by his rigour and his sense of collective spirit. He has many qualities and should play in an even bigger club than at present. That's very good news! It's up to him to impose himself now."


What do you think of El Kayoubi's expatriation to China?


Hervé Renard: "There are more and more very good players in China. Already when I was there in 2002, as an assistant, there was already a certain level. It's not easy to perform there with the rule of 3 foreign players per team. Look at how Gervinho is having a wonderful season today in Parma. He didn't fall asleep in China, you have to be competitive and Kayoubi will improve. This experience will serve him in his evolution. Kayoubi's problem today is rather the competition with the remarkable season of the young Youssef En-Nesyri, the driving force behind the strikers in Morocco."



What do you expect from the gala match against Argentina in Tangier?



Hervé Renard: "We're going to have to do the same things as we did against Portugal and Spain at the 2018 World Cup. If we're at our level, we can compete. While knowing that they have an alien named Lionel Messi who makes everything change. It's an exceptional match in a career and for Morocco. I'm sure the players will all be motivated."

By The Atlas Lions, Feb 2 2019 08:18PM

(Kingfut.com)Morocco’s national team head coach, Herve Renard, discussed the Atlas Lions chances in the upcoming 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt.


Rumors are circulating that the Frenchman is on the verge of leaving his position with Morocco after his statements concerning the Atlas Lions chances in the 2019 African Cup of Nations.


Renard stated that the Moroccan national team is not a strong candidate to win the title, claiming, “It seems that my realism is not liked by many people. We should look back at the history and recall Egypt hosting the tournament in 2006. It is very hard for Egypt not to win the title.”


He added, “The Senegalese national team also includes the best individual talents in the content. We also have a very strong team, but Egypt and Senegal will always be the strongest candidates.”


Egypt is set to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations starting from June 21st. This will be the fifth time Egypt will be hosting the AFCON after 1959, 1974, 1986 and 2006, with the Pharaohs winning three of the four versions.

By The Atlas Lions, Jan 21 2019 07:48PM

(KingFut.com) Morocco head coach Herve Renard discussed his team’s chances in the upcoming 2019 African Cup of Nations ‘AFCON’ which will take place in Egypt in June 2019.


It has been announced that Egypt will host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced it’s bid has prevailed over South Africa’s one.


“We’ll go with ambitions, that’s normal. But today, there are two great favorites: Egypt, of course, and Senegal,” Renard told Jeune Afrique.


The French coach recently won the CAF Coach of the Year award for the third time following Morocco’s impressive performances in the World Cup and the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.


“Winning the CAN away is not easy,” he added. “We must not forget that nothing is easy during a CAN. We will face highly motivated teams. We will not be at home, and we know that outside, it’s always more complicated.”

By The Atlas Lions, Dec 5 2018 01:42PM

By Morocco World News


After CAF’s decision to strip the CAN hosting rights from Cameroon, several African countries will now submit their bid as a replacement host.


Rabat – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) might consider Morocco as an alternative host to Cameroon. The head coach of the national football team, Herve Renard, believes that Morocco is the right choice to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN).


Renard believes that Morocco is ready in terms of infrastructure to host the African tournament. The coach expressed his hope for Morocco to be designated as host country for CAN 2019 “even if it will add extra pressure.”


Cameroon lost eligibility to host the competition after inspections of the country’s sports venues revealed that it was not ready to host the tournament. CAF will now start a new bidding process to appoint another host for the CAN, which will take place from June 15 to July 17.


While Morocco repeatedly supported Cameroon’s bid before CAF made its decision, the North African country might compete with South Africa and other countries to host it.


Morocco’s successful experience in hosting the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) might help Morocco clinch the rights to host CAF’s flagship tournament.


Morocco’s Atlas Lions will take part in the CAF competition after a well deserved qualification.


Fouzi Lekjaa, head of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) said that although the national team has had several exceptional generations of teams, Morocco has not been able to win the CAN since 1976.


He added that Morocco’s Atlas Lions and coach Herve Renard have received criticism. Lekjaa then called on critics to stop the “sterile criticism. We trust Herve Renard who has brought a lot to the Atlas Lions.” He also called for unity and support for both the coach and team.


Morocco’s football team has delivered several solid performances, especially at the 2018 World Cup in their games against Portugal and Spain.


In the 2019 CAN qualifiers, Morocco also received applause from their fans after they “broke the curse” and beat Cameroon 2-0.

By The Atlas Lions, Nov 30 2018 01:36PM

The nominees for the various categories of the CAF Awards 2018 have been finalized.


African Player of the year

Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco & Hebei China Fortune)

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco & Ajax)

Ismail Haddad (Morocco & Wydad Athletic Club)

Mahmoud Benhalib (Morocco & Raja Club Athletic)

Mehdi Benatia (Morocco & Juventus)


Youth player of the year

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco & Borussia Dortmunmd)

Mahmoud Benhalib (Morocco & Raja Club Athletic)


Men’s coach of the year

Rachid Taoussi (ES Sétif)

Herve Renard (Morocco)


The Awards Gala, to honour footballers and officials who distinguished themselves during the year under review, will be held on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 in Dakar, Senegal.

By The Atlas Lions, Nov 28 2018 01:22PM

This week BBC Sport will be profiling the five players on the shortlist for BBC African Footballer of the Year. Next up is Medhi Benatia, the Juventus and Morocco defender. Details of how to vote further down this page.


When Medhi Benatia retired from international football in March 2017, few could have predicted the year that would follow.


Low on both form and playing time at Juventus, it was a point of principle that prompted the defender's absence from Morocco.


"I am not a cheat," the 31-year-old told BBC Sport. "Someone who is not playing at their club cannot be in shape to represent his national team."


While such a stance may be rare, it's even rarer when the player in question happens to be the national captain.


"The national team is about calling up the best players at the time," the centre-back said.


"I cannot say that because I am called Medhi Benatia and have a career behind me that I'm going to play 90 minutes when I lack rhythm. This is not beneficial for me, my coach or my team."


As he freely admitted in his resignation statement, he was not getting much playing time at Juve, where the famed three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini stood in his way.


Loathe to deny another Moroccan a chance when he was not as "competitive as he wished", Benatia said he would return when he was playing regularly for his club.


"Medhi is more than one player in my squad because I have a lot of respect for him," Morocco coach Herve Renard tells BBC Sport.


"There is one particular thing about Medhi - whether you like him or not, he is always straight. He thinks he has to tell you. I like a man like that. He's very honest and this is the most important."


In September 2017, having played far more regularly for Juventus, Benatia was back for his country.


Two months later came one of his greatest triumphs as Morocco reached their first World Cup since 1998 without conceding a goal in a group containing 2015 African champions Ivory Coast, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Gabon and Mali.


In addition, they sealed qualification when winning 2-0 in Ivory Coast - with captain Benatia scoring the all-important second goal.


"He is a real leader both on and off the pitch because of his experience," says Frenchman Renard.


"When you are playing at this level, it is because you are a big competitor - especially if you're a defender. He's a very intelligent player, able to anticipate and technically very good.


"He is also passionate about football, which is very important for a coach. Before a game, he is always asking about the profile of the striker. He is very curious, very professional."


Yet it wasn't always thus.


Expelled from Clairefontaine

The national training centre of Clairefontaine in France is understandably famous around the world - having produced Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and Kylian Mbappe, among others, while helping deliver two World Cup wins since it opened in 1988.


Very few who are selected for the elite academy fail to last the course and even fewer go on to make it as a professional.


But Benatia is one of those - having struggled with its academic rigour.


"We were supposed to do three years, but I only did two," he admitted. "At the time, I had big troubles in the school. I did not want to do any school work, I also had some behavioural problems. I was - in inverted commas - a complete idiot."


His turbulence in the classroom led to his expulsion from Clairefontaine and while he has no issue with the decision - calling it "fair" - he also remembers it being "like an electric shock".


"Honestly, it was bizarre to go home and see my mother and father who were really very angry with me," recalls a man born near Paris to a Moroccan dad and an Algerian mum.


"They said: 'You have wasted a great opportunity for you to do something with your life so today you must accept the consequences.' They were really very sad for me.


"I realised then I was on the way to losing everything, and that my dream of being a footballer might slip away if I continued along that path. It was because of that I changed. I had to redeem myself."


And how.


For, despite numerous challenges during his career - "it would take quite a lot of time to run through the list", Benatia rebounded so hard he made it to the very top.


His first break after Clairefontaine was when offered youth terms at Guingamp, where he spent a year before signing for Marseille.


Once again, what appeared a dream move turned into a nightmare.


"They put so many obstacles in my way," he said. "They did everything so that I could not play with the professional group, which was unfair because the youth coaches were all unanimous in saying I deserved to.


"But there were people in higher positions who thought differently. That was a big regret because Marseille was a very important club for me. I had it deep in my heart to wear the jersey, but they blocked me."


He never played for Marseille (not even when a strike meant the club fielded a reserve side at PSG in 2006), and his mettle was further tested when a torn knee ligament suffered during a loan spell at Lorient kept the then 20-year-old out for a year.


"All those things forged my character and gave me a real fury to succeed, a hunger to reach my goals and, thanks to God, that is what happened. I have done more perhaps than I imagined."


Med

When Benatia left Marseille in 2008, he dropped down to Clermont Foot in the French second division - rebuilding his career so successfully that Udinese came calling in 2010.


His three-year spell there was hugely successful as the Italians finished fourth, third and fifth while recording their three highest-ever Serie A points tallies. They have not qualified for the Champions League nor finished higher than 13th since Benatia left in 2013.


The next stop was Roma, where he duly helped another side achieve a then-record points total, as they finished second, and a best-ever clean sheets record (21).


Keen to stay, Benatia was sold instead to Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, where his run of four consecutive league titles began - the first two coming with the Germans, the second pair with Juventus.


His brief Morocco retirement came during his first season in Turin, having moved there in 2016 (initially on loan).


Eighteen months on, Benatia has not just added two more league titles but two Italian Cups - having scored twice in a 4-0 thumping of Milan in May's final - as well as a Champions League runners-up medal.


With a maiden World Cup appearance as well, it is a remarkable turnaround for a player for whom adversity has been a familiar foe.


"It's true that it's been a route full of obstacles, twists and turns with lots of tests," he explained.


"Some take a motorway and always drive straight while others get lost along the way, take the wrong path and come back - but the most important is to reach your destination. I managed to arrive where I am dreamed of being, so I am happy and proud about that."


But there is one more dream to fulfil - helping the country he did not want to "deceive" last year win only its second Africa Cup of Nations title (and first since 1976).


"If I had the chance to win this cup, this would be a unique moment engraved in our minds," he said.


"Just speaking about it gives me goosebumps. It sounds so incredible already but we're not there yet. If we don't win with a coach like [two-time winner] Herve Renard, we will never win, so we have to believe - and do everything to win it."



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