Egypt’s national team will face its Moroccan counterpart on 29 January in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Gabon, marking the second Arab derby in the continental competition after the group stage match between Tunisia and Algeria in group B.
The Pharaohs and the Atlas Lions have a long history of victories in the continent, and everyone is familiar with the excitement of their previous matches.
The coming match in Port Gentil stadium will be a special clash between Egypt’s coach Argentine Héctor Cúper and Morocco’s coach French Hervé Renard. Morocco’s coach has a lot of experience in the African continent, as he won the African title twice in 2013 and 2015 with Zambia and Ivory Coast, respectively. He definitely seeks to win the third title in a row with Morocco, while Cúper aims to achieve his first continental title through his realistic techniques which were manifest in the last matches with the Egyptian national team.
Under the leadership of the 61-year-old Argentinian, Egypt drew with Mali in its first match in group D. From there, Egypt has defeated Uganda 1-0 when Al-Ahly midfielder Abdullah El-Said scored his first goal in the injury time. The Pharaohs also defeated Ghana 1-0 in their final group D match, to book the last available quarterfinal spot in this year’s competition and finish top of the group with seven points.
Cúper has never expressed his ambition to win the tournament, but he considers the African Cup of Nations a preparation for the World Cup qualifiers. However, he expressed his pleasure to participate in his first continental tournament.
Cúper, who seems unwilling to change his techniques to please analysts and critics who attack him, has succeeded to qualify to the next stage of the African Cup of Nations with the strongest defence line, as the Pharaohs are the only team in the tournament not to concede any goals in three group-stage matches.
So can Cúper maintain his “realistic” techniques in the tournament against ambitious Renard?
Morocco coach Renard, known for wearing the same white shirt in matches, will seek to achieve his third African title with the Atlas Lions, aiming to be the first coach to win three continental titles with three different teams.
Renard was heavily criticised after his loss against Congo in their first match in group C. The Atlas Lions recovered quickly and beat Togo, led by French Claude Le Roy, and Ivory Coast to qualify to quarterfinals with six points.
The Moroccan squad chosen by Renard was also criticised by the Moroccan fans as he dismissed many international players; however, he managed to achieve two victories and presented a brilliant performance.
Renard neither makes risky changes in his techniques nor exaggerates the team’s ambitions. He always speaks quietly to the press, saying that Morocco is not the strongest candidate to win the African Cup of Nations 2017, noting that there are many good teams who deserve to win the African title.
The French coach said he needs more time to teach the Moroccan players his techniques; only then can he talk about winning trophies.