The Lions, while not as star-studded as neighbors Algeria on the pitch, or carrying a rich world cup history on their backs like Tunisia, have a secret weapon of their own: A superstar in the dugout. Two-time AfCON winning manager Herve Renard has become quite iconic in the continent for his white shirt and uncanny resemblance to Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
The Frenchman Renard first came into the spotlight for taking Zambia into the quarter finals in 2010. After leaving, he took on a couple of jobs, including coaching Angola for a few months, before returning to Zambia a year later. Then, in 2012, he did the unthinkable by taking this unlikely dark horse to the final.
Think that was impressive? Up next, we have the ‘David vs. Goliath’ equivalent of International football. They took on an Ivory Coast side that boasted some of the best players in the world. Drogba, the Toure brothers Yaya and Kolo, Gervinho to name a few. An Ivory coast team, that, for all intents and purposes, should have walked all over Zambia. What ended up happening was a fairy tale for the ages, as his Zambia side went on to win the game in a penalty shootout.
Renard left Zambia to take a job back in France. Following a failed stint, he returned to international management 3 years later, in which he guided the very team he defeated, the Ivory Coast, on a trip to end all of their previous disappointments and be crowned the champions of the last AfCON, after beating Ghana.
The Frenchman will be looking to his captain on the pitch, former Bayern, Roma, and current Juventus centerback Medhi Benatia. The big man will have to shore up the defense in a very tough group featuring bronze medal winners in 2015 DR Congo, as well as Togo. Ironically enough, the very team that keeps popping up in every corner of Renard’s life, the Ivory Coast, will also be participating!
Stay tuned for more stories from AfCON right here on Barakabits. Next up: we conclude our “Arabs at the African Cup of Nations” profiles, and it’s a good one. It’s the Pharaohs ladies and gents!
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