Sochaux are not doing very well. Their last silverware was the Coupe de France in 2007, and after finishing fifth in 2010/11 and qualifying for the Europa League preliminaries, manager Francis Gillot left, Metalist Kharkiv turned them over 4-0 at home, and they spent games 19 to 35 of the 2011/12 season in the relegation zone before new new manager Eric Hely orchestrated a last-gasp escape that took them up to 14th. Then they lost top-scorer Modibo Maiga to West Ham, key passer Marvin Martin to Lille, and have spent most of this season bobbing in and out of the drop zone, and currently sit in 18th after a 5-1 tonking by Evian in game 28. 27 points, scored 29, conceded 45.
However, they are still attracting the attention of scouts from a long list of clubs rumoured to include PSG, Lyon, Bayern, Spurs, Arsenal, Juventus, and AC Milan (no Newcastle? I assume that’s a typo – ed.), who are looking at one of their defenders. Right-back Sébastien Corchia, the most-used player at Sochaux, has 100 Ligue 1 games under his belt (as well as a season in Ligue 2 for Le Mans), 1 goal and 2 assists this season, was in L’Equipe’s top five defenders before the Evian game, has an average mark of 5.4 and a high of 8 (very rare for a defender), has already been voted Sochaux’s player of the month twice this season – and he’s just 22.
Corchia is an attacking fullback, but like many of the younger players in that position, is also rapid at getting back for his defensive duties. He is a fine crosser, but his goal away at Rennes (2-2 draw in game 26) also displayed his ability on the ball, with a jinking, swerving run into the box, twisting up the Rennes defence and scoring with a fine strike to the top corner. This followed another great result for Sochaux, the 3-2 victory over PSG in game 25, when he also demonstrated his impressive dead-ball delivery, going very close with a 30-yard freekick that crashed off the inside of the post.
It seems like the Corchia name has been around Ligue 1 for quite some time now, as it has been four years since the wide-eyed 18-year old took the field for his debut; he played 67 minutes against Nice in a match his side would lose 2-1, both goals conceded once Corchia was off the pitch – he got the fans’ vote as man of the match. Unlike most French fullbacks Corchia made his name first and foremost for his defensive work. Well-timed tackles, excellent positioning, of course there will be mistakes (he didn’t have a good match against Evian, but then nobody in the team did really) but these have been few and far between. Given the chance to play regular football in Ligue 2 really helped his progression; helping Le Mans finish just short of promotion in 2010/11, the defender from Noisy-le-Sec (another talented player from Ile-de-France passed up by PSG – ed.) signed off by scoring on the final day of the season against Nantes.
There was no way Corchia was going to languish in the second division, and the move to Sochaux looked ideal for both player and team, trying to build on their excellent fifth place finish under Francis Gillot. It says a lot about the quality of the player that two consecutive relegation battles in Ligue 1 have done nothing but enhance his reputation. In his first year with the club, les Lionceaux suffered a very turbulent season but the performances of Corchia brought moments of great promise. Early in the season Sochaux travelled to then champions Lille and gave the home side a tremendous fight. Corchia was superb on the right flank, keeping Player of the Year Eden Hazard relatively quiet. With his side trailing with only minutes to go, Corchia released Marvin Martin down the right, the cross was met by Sloan Privat and Sochaux earned a huge point at the home of the Champions. A perfect example of Corchia’s ability at both ends of the pitch.
Things are looking up for French defenders of the future, with people raving about Raphaël Varane, Elaquim Mangala, Kurt Zouma et al, but Corchia has earned his place on the up-and-coming list. He has 26 caps and three goals at U21 level, having taken part in two Euro qualifying campaigns, the second as captain. Despite comfortably winning their qualifying group, everyone plays off at U21 level, and France will not appear at the 2013 Euros in Israel, having buggered up their two-legged play-off against Norway.
The question now is at what point Corchia will get his first senior call-up. There is some competition for the right-back berth at present; Mathieu Debuchy looks to be taking over as first-choice from Bacary Sagna, Anthony Réveillère has 20 caps and Christophe Jallet has received his first call-up in the current World Cup qualifying campaign. With two crucial qualifiers coming up this month, against Georgia (22nd March) and Spain (26th), Didier Deschamps will likely go for experience over risk, but some friendlies in South America in June could be a good opportunity to bring up some younger players, particularly as they won’t be needed in Israel.
Sochaux may be flirting with relegation again, but they are not yet cut adrift, as there are two other teams on 27 points. After those fine results to PSG and Rennes, they have lost three on the spin, worryingly to other low-lying teams (Troyes in the cup, Nancy and Evian in the league), so need to make the most of their next match, at home to Valenciennes, and hope that their rivals to stay up trip up (Evian are away at Lille, Reims at home to Rennes). If they do go down, it seems highly unlikely that Corchia will go down with them – if they stay up, similarly, but he will undoubtedly be one of the players they thank for their survival.