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African coaches differ on value of 'spying'

11 June 2015, 10:46

Johannesburg-Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff believes 'spying' on opponents is important and travelled the length of Africa to watch Cup of Nations rivals ahead of matchday 1 qualifiers this weekend.

The 60-year-old Frenchman flew from Algiers to mining town Rustenburg in north-west South Africa to see fellow Group J teams Seychelles and Lesotho playing.

Both countries were competing in the Cosafa Cup southern Africa championship and, within six days, Gourcuff was able to see each side in action three times.

Sitting in a stand where many spectators would have been unware of his identity, Gourcuff watched, took notes, and avoided contact with the media.

Nothing he saw would have unduly worried a man in charge of one of most talented national squads on the continent, including 2014 BBC African Footballer of the Year Yacine Brahimi.

Seychelles, who drew one game and lost two to lone goals, were ultra-defensive and the challenge for the 'Desert Foxes' will be to create gaps in a 10-man defence.

Algeria host the Indian Ocean islanders Saturday in Blida near Algiers and if they score an early goal, should win convincingly.

Lesotho were more adventurous, managing a win after two losses, but did nothing to worry meticulous Gourcuff.

The coach of the No. 1 ranked African team must believe he has a good knowledge of his challengers as the mini-league is completed by Ethiopia, who met Algeria in the 2015 qualifiers.

But what one of six French coaches in charge of 2017 Cup of Nations hopefuls did is uncommon in Africa with South Africa handler Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba no fan of 'spying'.

Asked what he knew about Gambia, the west African side they play Saturday in Indian Ocean city Durban, the 64-year-old coach replied candidly: "Very little.

"There is not much I know about Gambia as I last saw them play about two and a half years ago.

"Until now, I have not given myself time to check what is actually happening with them."

What is happening with Gambia under new Swiss coach Raoul Savoy is that they stopped off in Kampala en route to Johannesburg and held Uganda 1-1 in a midweek friendly.

Former Orlando Pirates star Mashaba is clearly not going to be clocking up air miles like Gourcuff any time soon.

"I am one different coach. I do not believe in what you call 'spying'. You travel far to watch a team and then they come to South Africa and change five players.

"What do you do then? You run to the change room and embarrassingly tell your players to ignore what you told them about the opposition because they have changed half the team.

"Let us prepare ourselves to fight. Let us work on our plan to make sure we win the game," said Mashaba.

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