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Amrouche returns to the dugout to plot Bafana downfall

Algeria-born, Belgian-bred Adel Amrouche returns to the bench for the first time in four years on Saturday when he takes charge of Libya in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away against South Africa in Durban.

Appointed in May, Amrouche is back at the helm of the team after a period spent as a coaching instructor with the Belgian football association and away from the hurly burly of the international game.

Amrouche made a solid impression in his last tenure with Kenya.

They were within minutes of beating Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers before a controversial stoppage time equaliser for the Super Eagles.

He endeared himself even further to Kenyans when he led the Harambee Stars to the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup with Kenya after an 11-year drought, and lost only three times in16 games.

But an alleged spitting incident - denied by Amrouche - aimed at the referee at a Nations Cup qualifier in the Comoros saw him banned for one year by the Confederation of African Football.

Amrouche, who has also been national coach in Equatorial Guinea and Burundi and taken charge of DC Motema Pembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo and USM Alger in Algeria, spoke KweséESPN ahead of Saturday's qualifier at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

How has your preparation for this weekend's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa gone?

"We have a small camp in Tunisia with local players and then again in Cairo because it is not easy to work in Libya at the moment because of the political problems. But the football community are doing something, slowly, slowly, to try and manage the situation and make something out of it for the betterment of the game.

The new league season has not started because of the conflict between the two big Tripoli teams Al Ahli and Al Ittihad. They have an incredible rivalry and are always at each other and Ahli refused to play Ittihad in the second leg of their cup game because of a dispute over a goal in the first leg and the federation president stepped in to rule in favour of Ittihad. That has complicated matters. It is complex and so it is not the easiest place to work."

But you have been able to see the local teams in action and scout for players for the national team?

"Yes, I watched the end of the league last season and the cup final was just one month ago. I've wanted to look at as many players as I can because Libya is like most other national teams in Africa in that they always select players with reputation rather than on form and this is something that I'm looking to change. We have players in the Middle East too and two in Europe."

Is this a good challenge for you, do you feel there is something that you can do with this side?

"Well you know I've had experience when it comes to building teams. I was in similar situation when I started working in Burundi and also in (Democratic Republic of) Congo. I've never had the luck to arrive at a job and find everything in good working order! I don't know wat I do wrong but never before have I got a job where it is smooth sailing! (laughs). But I'm happy to help these people.

I feel a need to take on the challenge and to help on a human level as much as I can. When I looked at the situation in Libya I felt it was somewhere where I could do something positive with these boys. I have had contact with the country for a long time. I was contacted two years ago after they fired Javier Clemente and offered the job and at the time I said 'no'. But I felt this time around it's the right moment now to do something in Libya."

Any idea when the FIFA ban on Libya hosting international games might be ended?

"I think it could come soon because there is peace in Libya. There is no longer conflict in Tripoli and Benghazi and I hope and I think that in a few months FIFA will grant the authorisation for Libya to play at home. 

There are plans from the federation to invite Algeria across to play in Libya, the Palestine team is also coming to play in Libya and maybe China. Countries have accepted invitations to come and play us in Libya. It is just a question of time."

What is your perception of your opponent on Saturday?

"I know South Africa very well, Bafana Bafana. Each coach who has been in charge of South Africa has come with his own philosophy. When the Brazilian was there (Carlos Alberto Parreira) there was one kind of football, when (Pitso) Mosimane was there then they played another style and now with (Stuart) Baxter, it is different again. But the quality of  the players remains the same. With South African players, who are always getting creative football and I think for me, in terms of African football, they have the best quality of individual players."

But finishing chances in South Africa is poor...

"Yes, but Baxter likes to play on the counter and you can score every time. South African football has everything but, yes, they don't have a special striker who can finish off the chances. There are great wingers, midfielders, defenders who come forward at set pieces in the South African team. But let's be realistic, in Africa there are only five or six proper strikers in all Africa.

This is because the whole philosophy around the way the game is played in Africa has changed. Coaches now close the spaces to play, defence is so much better. The mentality of the game in Africa has changed and the focus is now much more on tactics.

It has taken the place of creativity and technical skill. But South Africa is a special team. They are unpredictable. South African players have that individual creativity that can make a difference in a game, with their skill."

You have a tough group with Nigeria and South Africa two big superpowers. Do you think your Libyan team can shake up this group a little bit?

"Of course! When I was in Kenya, I started my first game in charge against Nigeria and the drew with them (1-1 in March 2013 in a World Cup qualifier). The referee gave them a present. Nigeria do not scare me. I am looking forward to playing them. I know how to play them, I know how to put Nigeria in a difficult situation."

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