It would be understandable if the coaches of France and Morocco had divided loyalties when their teams meet in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday in Adelaide.
France’s Herve Renard led Morocco’s men’s team to the 2018 World Cup.
Morocco coach Reynald Pedros, meanwhile, is French and insists “my heart is with Morocco.”
Morocco is debuting at the Women’s World Cup and became the first Arab team to register a win in the competition by beating South Korea in the group stage. It followed that with another win against Colombia to advance to the knockouts at the expense of No. 2-ranked Germany.
“It has been three years in which we have been working hard to get to these incredible objectives. And, here we are,” Pedros said. “We realized that with this (Moroccan) federation and this team, who are fantastic. I really love Morocco. It’s a country that I have discovered. I live there very happily.”
Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and Ivory Coast, also has affection for Morocco. But his focus is on ending its history-making run at this World Cup and advancing to the quarterfinals with France.
“I have amazing memories from when I was in Morocco and I have some amazing friends in Morocco, too,” he said. “But now we need to focus on football. Even when we have a friendly match you need to win the game, so we are here to qualify.”
France advanced to the knockout stages by finishing top of Group F. It’s run was not the smoothest after being held by Jamaica in its first game and going behind to Panama before winning 6-3 in its last match of the group.
Pedros believes Morocco is capable of springing another surprise in a tournament that has had plenty of shocks.
“Yes, France are the favorites for tomorrow, but so were Colombia and South Korea,” Pedros said.
“We must not do the same mistakes we did against Germany. We must not hold back, because that makes us make mistakes. We need to give the same mindset that we had against Colombia and South Korea. We need to be quite aggressive and difficult to manage. So, we need to make things difficult for France so that we can gain a bit of confidence and maybe score, who knows.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup
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