interviewBy Abdou Tajeddine
Johannesburg — A week into the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, Morocco have yet to secure a win. The Atlas Lions racked up their second draw Wednesday (January 23rd), tying Cape Verde 1-1.
Ahead of the competition kick-off, Magharebia caught up with Moroccan coach Rachid Taoussi on the side-lines of the arrival of the Atlas Lions in Johannesburg, where we asked him to preview the prospects of the Maghreb teams at CAN.
Magharebia: Who do you think will win the 2013 Africa Cup Nations?
Rachid Taoussi: It is very difficult at this stage to talk about who will win the tournament. It is too early for this. Besides, the tournament will be very difficult and no one can predict what will happen during the Africa Cup competition.
Magharebia: What about the Maghreb teams? What are their chances of winning the Africa Cup?
Taoussi: For the Algerian, Tunisian or Moroccan national teams, advancing to the second round will be an achievement because the competition will be very strong between the qualifying teams competing in this tournament. It is going to be one of the best compared to previous years.
Magharebia: What do you think of the Algerian national team?
Taoussi: Both the Algerian and Moroccan national teams experienced performance difficulties in terms of results with their former coaches. However, after the changes that took place at the level of their technical staff, their situation somewhat improved.
This is especially true for Algeria, a team that excelled with former coach Rabah Saadane, whom I respect and appreciate a lot. Results fell, however, after his departure. With the advent of the new coach Vahid Halilhodzic, the team is back in the spotlight. Yet the African Cup will not be easy.
Magharebia: What is the goal of the Moroccan team in the tournament?
Taoussi: I do not want to talk now about the necessity to reach advanced rounds. What is important for us is to pass the first round. Morocco has not qualified to the second round since former coach Badou Zaki in 2004.
Magharebia: After recent Atlas Lions matches, some observers have said that the Moroccan team has top talent but lacks teamwork. Is that the case?
Taoussi: This is true, a bitter reality. The players were not well assigned to the positions they hold with their respective clubs. We hope to change these shortcomings in order to form a harmonious team.
Magharebia: Are you feeling the pressure?
Taoussi: I am Moroccan and I know well what Moroccans feel. The responsibility upon me is great and I get that. However, I am a man of challenges and I intend to face with my team all the competing teams in order to reach a certain level and achieve positive results in South Africa.
Magharebia: What about the exclusion of Houssine Kharja and Marouane Chamakh?
Taoussi: I take full responsibility for excluding this duo. The reasons are not personal but technical. I hope that Moroccans will only judge me by results, and I take full responsibility for my decisions.