Gerets in the dark over Morocco's fate
As night fell fast around him here Friday Morocco coach Eric Gerets said he was completely in the dark as to what to expect from his team's Africa Cup of Nations opener against Tunisia.
The Belgian, speaking 48 hours before the Group C curtain raiser, was in relaxed mood after overseeing a testing training session at a pristine training ground on the outskirts of the Gabon capital.
Monday's clash is a re-run of the 2004 final in Tunis, with the hosts that year edging their north African neighbours, whose sole continental crown came in 1976.
But Morocco are arguably the favourites for Monday's renewal of hostilities, impressing in qualifying, the 4-0 rout of 2010 World Cup finalists Algeria away the high point.
Former Marseille coach Gerets, all but two of whose 23-man squad are attached to clubs overseas, said: "You can never tell what is going to happen.
"When you think a match is going to be difficult it turns out to be very easy, for example that Algeria game in qualifying. We thought beforehand playing them away that it was going to be extremely tough but it turned out to be our easiest game.
"I think it could come down to which of us scores first."
Gerets struck a contented figure as he surveyed a training session where none of his squad featuring Arsenal forward Marouane Chamakh and skipper Houcine Kharja of Fiorentina are struggling with injury.
"Our preparations have gone smoothly, in fact I wish we could play tonight, we're impatient to get going."
Morocco and Tunisia are joined in their group by so-called minnows Niger, like Gerets having their first dip in the colourful waters of Nations Cup competition, and co-hosts Gabon.
"This is the Africa Cup of Nations, anything can happen," he countered when it was suggested Morocco and Tunisia were expected to qualify.
"This is my first Cup, we are all enjoying the experience," he added.
His one reservation was the pitch on which the training session, watched by more soldiers, rifles at the ready, than onlookers, had been held.
"The grass this evening worried me a little, it slowed the ball down, I'm not sure whether it'll be similar in the stadium on Monday. It's hot too, but it's the same for everyone."
A win on Monday is important for both teams gunning to end the first round top of the pile which would likely bring the reward of avoiding competition favourites Ghana in the quarter-finals.
Gerets' Morocco have something to prove here, for since the 2004 final the Atlas Lions have failed to roar, with first round exits in 2006 and 2008 while in 2010 they missed the party completely.
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