Ivory Coast, Ghana are Cup favorites, says Herve Renard

Ivory Coast, Ghana are Cup favorites, says Herve Renard

JOHANNESBURG - Agence France-Presse
Ivory Coast, Ghana are Cup favorites, says Herve Renard

Ivory Coast boasts Manchester City superstar Yaya Toure in its squad. AP photo

Zambia coach Herve Renard admits he would be mocked for suggesting the Africa Cup of Nations titleholder can hold on to its trophy in South Africa.

The dashing 44-year-old Frenchamn who defied the odds last year to guide the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) to glory in Gabon believes Ivory Coast and Ghana are the favourites.

“We cannot say we are the favorites - everybody would laugh if I said that. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the favorites,” he told a media conference after a training session in the north-eastern city of Nelspruit.

Renard says the Zambian build-up to the tournament has been better than last year, despite losses to Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and Angola and draws with Morocco and Norway in friendlies.

“I think we are better than last year when I was very concerned. All our warm-up games had been poor. But look what happened then -- we had nothing to show for ourselves and we won the tournament.” The Frenchman said he was unconcerned by the five-match winless streak ahead of the 2013 tournament, explaining that some fixtures were hastily arranged and used to experiment with players and tactics.

“We arranged the friendly against Angola at the last minute. We were staying in the same Johannesburg hotel and scheduled it just one day in advance,” said the native of French Alpine town Aix-les-Bains.

Zambia has no injury worries ahead of the game with Ethiopia on Jan. 21, but centre-back Stopilla Sunzu is in England hoping to finalise a move to English Premier League club Reading.

Another of the five French coaches at the 2013 Cup of Nations, Democratic Republic of Congo handler Claude le Roy, backs Renard in installing Ivory Coast and Ghana as favorites.

“There are three teams I see as the top favourites for the tournament -- Algeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. I do not think any other team can lift the trophy,” the 64-year-old veteran of six African Cup campaigns told reporters. 

Le Roy guided Cameroon to two consecutive finals, losing a penalty shootout against hosts Egypt after the match finished 0-0 after extra-time and defeating Nigeria 1-0 in Casablanca two years later.

He downplayed the chances of the Leopards. “We are not one of the favorites for the competition. We consider ourselves outsiders who can create some surprises and possibly spoil the dreams of big teams,” he said.