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Will Herve Renard end Marc Wilmots' troubled Ivorian reign this weekend?

When Herve Renard left his post as Ivory Coast manager in May 2015, you couldn't have possibly imagined that he'd have played a fairly direct role in both of his successors losing their job.

Yet that remarkable scenario could well become reality this weekend if the Elephants - now guided (and I use the term loosely) by Marc Wilmots - fail to beat Renard's new charges, Morocco, in Abidjan in their final World Cup qualifier.

While Renard has overseen something of a renaissance with the Moroccan side since taking the helm in February 2016, and now has them on the brink of their first World Cup appearance since 1998, Wilmots has wholly failed to help the Elephants move on from their miserable Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

Heading into the tournament as reigning champions under Michel Dussuyer, the West Africans were admittedly pooled in the 'Group of Death', but failed to really get their campaign off the ground and were sent packing after taking just two points from their three group matches.

It was one of the worst title defences in the tournament's history, and their experience was made all the bitterer by the fact that it was Renard - the man who had guided them to the championship two years beforehand - who dealt the final blow when his Moroccan side won 1-0 in Oyem in the decisive final group match.

On that day, the difference in approach, energy and dynamism between Renard - a coach famed for his charisma and showmanship - and his successor, the dour Dussuyer, was marked.

While Renard picked his moments carefully, his whole touchline presence a well measured performance that veered from brooding disdain to theatrical gesticulation, Dussuyer appeared downtrodden and impotent.

Watching Renard in action, you can understand why Salomon Kalou likened his whole approach to management to Jose Mourinho while speaking to ESPN earlier this year.

When Rachid Alioui fired the Atlas Lions into a 64th-minute lead with an impudent finish, it was 13 minutes before he made a substitution - even though one was so blatantly required - and even when his team appeared to lose their way, Dussuyer would remain in his dug out, shoulders hunched.

He was a man out of energy, out of ideas the immediate aftermath of the tournament...out of a job.

The Ivorian Federation arguably have a worse track record than most when it comes to appointing head coaches, with Renard the only real recent exception.

Francois Zahoui may have got a bad rep, but were Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2010 and Sabri Lamouchi in 2012 really the men to have overseen the immense talent, promise and ego of the Golden Generation?

Similarly, it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out taking Guinea to the quarter finals of the 2015 Nations Cup perhaps wasn't enough evidence that Dussuyer could be the right man to help the Elephants integrate the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Jean Seri, Franck Kessie and Jonathan Kodjia into the dying embers of that celebrated Golden Generation.

And neither was Wilmots.

Like Sven and Sabri, he was a cosmopolitan, metropolitan coach with experience of the elite end of European competition, but having arguably failed to capitalise on the promise of one exceptional group of players - Belgium - had he done enough to commend himself as the man to drag the Elephants up from the ashes of their AFCON defence?

While some may commend Wilmots for his pragmatism with the Belgian side, sometimes exquisite talents need to be allowed to express themselves and encouraged to take a more progressive approach to the game.

He's done little since taking over the Ivorians to suggest that he can guide the Elephants back to the pinnacle of the continental game.

So far, under his tenure, the senior side have played seven games, won two, drawn two and lost four. Notably, they've conceded 13 - including five in a friendly against the Netherlands - although they have kept clean sheets in three of their last four matches.

Wilmots will have to find a way past a rugged, dogged Moroccan side without the influential trio of Eric Bailly (suspended), Jean Seri and Wilfried Bony (both injured), although he will be able to call on Max Gradel and Zaha.

The latter, in particular, could prove to be a key figure - particularly considering that both Gervinho and Jonathan Kodjia are only finding their way back to fitness.

Zaha's scored two in his last four since returning to the fray with Crystal Palace, and has demonstrated at club level that when his team are struggling and need inspiration, he may just be the man to provide it.

He's yet to demonstrate his best form since switching nationality after having already made his international bow with England, but may just be the man to find a way through Morocco's disciplined and resilient backline.

The trump card for Wilmots may also be Seydou Doumbia of Sporting Lisbon.

Ignored by Dussuyer, the forward is one of the few positives to take from the Belgian coach's tenure to date - netting four in his last three - and having been sorely missed in the stalemate with Mali, he's due to return for the showdown with the Atlas Lions.

Certainly, Wilmots needs to find inspiration from somewhere in order to get the required victory over Morocco and ensure the Elephants reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.

In the opposite dugout, Renard will need no further incentive than the prospect of taking Morocco back to the promised land for the first time in two decades and chalking off another milestone in his storied career. However, don't be surprised if he also takes the scalp of another of his successors as well.


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