It's official: "Coach Vahid" resumes his coaching suit. Two weeks after leaving FC Nantes, he landed in Morocco with the primary mission of qualifying the Atlas Lions for the 2022 World Cup.
Canaries, where the alloy had never really taken, Vahid Halilhodzic arrives at the Atlas Lions in replacement of the French Hervé Renard, gone on a huge disappointment last month, eliminated in the round of 16 of the African Cup Nations (CAN) by Benin.
"Participation in the World Cup is for me the first goal," said the new coach at a press conference Thursday, during which he was introduced by the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF).
"This is the fourth time I've tried to take a team to the World Cup (...), for me it's the first goal," said the 67-year-old technician, nicknamed "Coach Vahid" .
The Franco-Bosnian, who has just resigned from FC Nantes where he had been in post since the end of 2018, continues his navigation between clubs and nations. Before Morocco, he had already coached Côte d'Ivoire (2008-2010), Algeria (2011-2014) and Japan (2015-2018). During this experience in Asia, he was fired at two months of the World Cup, despite a qualification of the Japanese team after a tumultuous mandate.
"Rallying a national team is really a challenge, an honor and a great responsibility," said the former goalscorer of FC Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain. "It is also a homecoming (...), I never forgot my passage in Morocco", where there was "some success anyway," he recalled.
Halilhodzic has, indeed, already raised a trophy by winning the African Champions League in 1997 with Raja Casablanca and has since maintained a good rating of popularity in Morocco. More recently, it's on the other side of the border that he has raised the crowds, leading Algeria to the round of 16 of the World Cup for the first time in its history in 2014.
- Mission reconstruction -
Before aiming for such an ambition with Morocco, the goal will already be to forget the surprise defeat last month of the Atlas Lions in the round of 16 of the CAN-2019 in Egypt.
Finalist of the CAN-2004 and quarter-finalist at the 2017 edition, Morocco was eliminated on July 5 by Benin (1-1, 4 tab 1), however reduced to ten and novice at this stage of the competition . Two weeks after this early elimination for one of the strongholds of African football, the coach Hervé Renard announced his resignation. He spent a total of 41 months with the Lions, before becoming Saudi coach at the end of July.
To replace it, Halilhodzic was preferred to other prestigious options. According to the local press, contacts were made with Laurent Blanc, who came to the site last week to discuss with FRMF management, but without reaching an agreement.
With this new experience, the coach with a volcanic character draws a definitive trait on his experience in Nantes, which he left on August 2 by resigning "his head up" after a relationship full of disagreements with canary leaders.
© 2019 AFP