Coach Renard: Ivory Coast a different team this time
BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Herve Renard is partially responsible for Ivory Coast’s recent agony at the African Cup of Nations. Now he has to undo, or at least underplay, some of the pain he caused.
Renard was coach of Zambia when it upset the Ivorians in the final in 2012, a second loss on penalties in the deciding game for Ivory Coast, which still hasn’t won Africa’s football championship since its one and only title in 1992.
Now the Ivory Coast coach, Renard has the strange task of ensuring underdog Zambia’s triumph three years ago — his greatest moment as a coach so far — is forgotten as irrelevant for Ivory Coast’s incumbent players, as they prepare for the semifinal against outsider Congo on Wednesday.
“Most of the time I avoid talking about 2012,” Renard said on Tuesday of his Ivory Coast team meetings. “It’s not the same squad. It’s not the same players. The story is completely different.”
Sure, the one big change for Ivory Coast is the absence of striker and former talisman Didier Drogba, who retired from internationals after last year’s World Cup without ever lifting Africa’s top prize.
But Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho — who all were involved in the miserable final loss in Gabon in 2012 — are still around.
“These players have a lot of experiences, sometimes bad experiences,” Renard said, recognizing there are some leftovers from 2012. “But sometimes in life you can change the bad experiences. You can use the bad memories.”
The Frenchman likes to portray his Ivorian team as just one of four still seeking the African Cup title in Equatorial Guinea. But after a 3-1 win over top-ranked African team Algeria in the quarterfinals, Ivory Coast is the firm favorite to win, as it has been many times before.
“I’m only interested in winning. The rest I won’t be satisfied (with),” Renard said after being pushed on what he expects here.
There’s no doubt the underdog is Congo.
Coached by Florent Ibenge, the only African coach left at the African Cup, the Congolese have kept coming back this year. They trailed in two of their group games and fought back for draws. Then they were 2-0 down with less than 30 minutes to go in the quarterfinals and beat Republic of Congo 4-2.
In fact, Congo has many of the qualities that Renard instilled in his close-knit and successful Zambian team of 2012.
“It’s a very dangerous team,” Renard said of Congo. “Their team spirit is very strong.”
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP