Herve Renard's Army! Morocco boss welcomes Van Gaal backing
Herve Renard is delighted to have Louis van Gaal backing his Morocco team at the World Cup and credits Ajax star Hakim Ziyech as a key factor in the North African team's growing Dutch fanbase.
Morocco kick off their Group B campaign against Iran in St Petersburg on Friday, with the build-up to kick-off in the section dominated by the shock sacking of Spain boss Julen Lopetegui.
Potential unrest for the favourites could open the door to Renard's Morocco, who have gifted playmaker Ziyech back at the heart of their plans after a dispute with the well-travelled French coach saw him axed for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Netherlands are absent in Russia, having been semi-finalists under Van Gaal four years ago and the ex-Manchester United and Barcelona boss is keen to see Morocco perform well, although his ownership of a luxury villa there is reason enough for him also to root for group rivals Portugal.
"I'm wearing a green polo shirt. I’m pretty sure you all know why. Green is in the shirt of Morocco," Van Gaal said in a video posted on YouTube.
"But it is also the shirt of Portugal, the place I live. That’s why I want to be a fan of both Portugal and Morocco, because a lot of Moroccan people live in Holland.
"Therefore, I shall be fan of both teams. Hopefully you all reach the final of the World Cup."
Ahead of trying to keep up his end of an unlikely scenario, ex-Ivory Coast boss Renard took Van Gaal's endorsement in good spirits at a pre-match news conference.
"Yes, thanks very much for your support," he said. "Of course I was very happy and very proud.
"It's a big honour. He's a fantastic coach, a big coach with lots of experience.
"We know why your country [Netherlands] is supporting Morocco a lot - because we have some players who were able to play for your national team
"Ziyech is one of them and we are very happy and proud to have him in our team."
308 - Hakim Ziyech (165 shots, 143 chances created) was involved in 308 shots in the 2017/18 Eredivisie season, more than any player in the top 5 leagues (Lionel Messi top with 284). Emperor. pic.twitter.com/bDdChu8JhC— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) May 24, 2018
Ziyech is tipped to leave Amsterdam before the start of next season, with Roma in pursuit and Liverpool also prominent among the 25-year-old's reported admirers.
"First of all, I wish him all the best to find as good a club as possible. He has all the talent and skill to do that," Renard said.
"In the past we had a few problems but now everything is perfect.
"He is a very, very important player for us and for a coach like me it's fantastic to have one player with this skill
"Every day, in qualifiers and friendlies, you see there are not many players with this talent. He is able to see things before other players.
"In one word, he is a fantastic player."