Patrice Beaumelle is drawing on his 13 years as assistant to Herve Renard
Frenchmen dreams of taking Côte d'Ivoire to Qatar 2022
He speaks about his side’s transition and objectives
Having won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Côte d'Ivoire, Herve Renard is one of the most successful coaches in the history of African international football. Before he became head coach, the Frenchmen was an assistant to veteran Claude Le Roy, with whom he gained valuable experiences that would later help him achieve his own continental success.
Once flying solo, Renard hired his compatriot Patrice Beaumelle as an assistant, and stuck with him for many years through thick and thin. The nature of football being what it is, Renard eventually bade farewell to Beaumelle when the latter was appointed head coach of Zambia. And while that stint only lasted one year, it did not deter him from taking up the Côte d'Ivoire reins this year.
FIFA.com spoke with Beaumelle, who shared some of his experiences with his mentor Renard. “I worked with him for 13 years, during which time we had many adventures, including six editions of the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup in Russia. Together we won the African title twice, and being an assistant was very important for me. I coached Zambia in 2013 for one year but then returned to assist Renard again. However, after that I felt it was necessary to make the transition to head coach,” the 42-year-old revealed.
“My ambition had always been to become head coach, but I decided to gain the necessary experience as an assistant first. After six African cups, I made the World Cup one of my goals, and I told Renard about it. I also told him that if I got an opportunity to be head coach, I’d seize it, and that desire only increased after I’d worked as his assistant at Russia 2018,” he added.
Like any assistant, Beaumelle was determined to put his experience to good use, but what exactly did he learn from Renard? "I learned a great deal from him, particularly in winning the African title with two teams with different playing styles - Zambia and Côte d'Ivoire. I learned that no matter how good a side is, you can’t win trophies without team spirit and the determination to achieve great things together. Every time we prepared for a tournament, we knew full well that if the squad wasn’t ready to undertake a shared human experience, then we wouldn’t go far. In a nutshell, the star is the group,” he explained.
Beaumelle arrived in Côte d'Ivoire at a difficult time, just after a fantastic generation of players had retired. The likes of Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou were no longer around, requiring him to assemble a new group of players who were willing to prove they deserved their places.
Asked how he handled this situation, Beaumelle said: "We’re currently going through a transition. We have some guys who’ve played a lot of internationals and a group of U-23 players who’ve already qualified for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament. My short-term goal is to assemble a squad from this pool of veteran and younger players, while my medium-term one is to reach the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. Building a strong squad that can qualify for the World Cup remains my long-term goal."
In addition to the AFCON qualifiers, Côte d'Ivoire will also be contesting the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, in which they have been drawn alongside Cameroon, Malawi and Mozambique. “Our group is very difficult. Cameroon are used to making the World Cup, and having faced Malawi and Mozambique previously, I can say they’re very tough teams, especially on home soil. Moreover, we know that travel in Africa is difficult, which will further complicate our task. Every point will be vital on the road to Qatar 2022,” he said.
Beaumelle is especially keen to take The Elephants to Qatar after their failure to qualify for Russia 2018. “The World Cup is the ultimate goal for any national team coach, but it’s premature to talk about it now. My goals under my current contract relate to the upcoming AFCON. As I said earlier, we’re going through a transition so are currently focused on the continental tournament. However, the World Cup is certainly on my mind."
Côte d'Ivoire’s most fruitful era was between 2006 to 2015, when a supremely gifted generation of players propelled the team to three successive World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, without ever going beyond the group stage.
Asked if Qatar 2022 would be an opportunity to finally achieve that feat, Beaumelle said: "Reaching the knockout stage at the World Cup with Côte d'Ivoire remains a dream for me. Every coach wants to reach the latter stages of this great tournament."
Since fans like nothing better than to compare generations, does he think the current squad could emulate what Drogba and his team-mates did? “Comparing the country’s golden generation led by Drogba with the current crop is premature. I came up against that powerful team several times when I was coach of Zambia, and I believe that the current generation of Côte d'Ivoire players is inspired by them,” he said.
“Young players have pictures of former stars in their rooms, so why can’t they follow in their footsteps? Perhaps the best example is Kylian Mbappe, who managed to fulfil his childhood dreams. The Elephants can do the same, and I’m here to help them do that."