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Sports

Côte d'Ivoire to defend crown against Cup of Nations title coach

media Hervé Renard has enjoyed success as a coach of interntaional teams AFP/Fethi Belaid

History beckons for Morocco coach Hervé Renard at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. The 48-year-old Frenchman will emulate the likes of Charles Gyamfi and Hassan Shehata if he can win the trophy for a third time as a coach.

Gyamfi, who died in September 2015, led Ghana to titles to in 1963, 1965 and 1982. Shehata pulled off the feat in more spectacular fashion by winning three in a row with Egypt between 2006 and 2010.

Renard created his own legend in Equatorial Guinea when he steered Côte d'Ivoire to the 2015 crown at the expense of Ghana. He became the only man to have coached two different countries to the title. Three years earlier in Gabon, Renard was the Zambia boss when they claimed their first Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

To reach the latter stages of the 2017 competition, Renard's men must negotiate their way out of Group C past the Ivorians as well as Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo, managed by his old mentor Claude Le Roy. The pair worked together during the 2008 tournament when the veteran French coach was at the helm of the hosts Ghana.

"If I had to name teams I wanted to avoid before the draw, I would have said some of the teams in our group," admitted Renard. "To face Côte d'Ivoire is difficult, especially as I know many of their players and it's practically the same squad.

"The match against Claude's team will be something that again will be difficult for me. But over 90 minutes I have to forget everything this man did for me and do everything in order to beat him."

Gabon to face Guinea-Bissau

Hosts Gabon will contest the opening match in Libreville on 14 January against Guinea-Bissau, who are making their first apearance in the 16-nation tournament. Cameroon and Burkina Faso are also in Group A.

Algeria have been placed in Group B with Tunisia, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

Ghana, seeking their first trophy since Gyamfi led them to glory 35 years ago, will play in Group D with Egypt, Mali and Uganda, who are at the tournament for the first time since 1978.

"This is a tough and competitive group," Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic said. "But I believe in the players and the team. We have a realistic chance to get good results and reach the knockout stage."

The top two from each group will advance to the quarter-finals which will be played in Libreville, Franceville, Oyem and Port Gentil.

The final will take place in Libreville on 5 February.

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