Coupe De France Seiziemes Part I : An Olympico and Le Poiré-sur-Vie
The Coupe de France continues with the round of 32 featuring thirteen teams from outside the top two leagues, including three matches where those teams face each other, so we are assured some lower-league representation in the next round. The big-ticket game of day 1 is another Olympico, which Marseille will be hoping goes slightly better than the league iteration, but there are also some other intriguing fixtures, and giantkilling possibilities.
Lille (Ligue 1) – Nantes (Ligue 1)
Lille beat outre-mer DH side Excelsior 4-1 in the last round, having a slight scare as the visitors scored to make it 2-1 at the 88th minute, but the excitement of that seems to have got to the lower-ranked side as Rony Lopes and Martin Terrier scored in the next two minutes to restore some dignity to the scoreline.
Lille themselves might be feeling slightly giddy after winning 2-1 in Lyon at the weekend, and looking forwards, their next league game is against Lorient at home, so Patrick Collot can reasonably be expected to focus on this cup match.
Meanwhile, Nantes huffed and puffed a bit against CFA2’s Blois to win 2-1, but a brace from Mariusz Stepinski put them through. They may well be fuming after giving up a late equaliser to Rennes in the / a Breton derby at the weekend, and welcome Nancy next, which may well be a distraction for new-ish boss Sergio Conceicao as the Canaris attempt to keep clear blue water between themselves and the relegation battle.
The league fixture was a frankly forgettable goalless draw at Nantes in late November, but that was Collot’s first match, and Conceicao was yet to take over, so as both teams have perked up since then, this could be a close one.
Bordeaux (Ligue 1) – Dijon (Ligue 1)
One of the all-Ligue 1 match-ups that could be intriguing involves a presumably knackered Bordeaux playing their seventh game in 23 days, thanks to fitting in two rounds of the other cup, culminating in being beaten 4-1 at home by PSG in the semi-final. This competition, however, was their last piece of silverware, as they took the trophy in 2013; and manager Jocelyn Gourvennec won the 2014 edition with his former club Guingamp.
There were signs of changing it up in the 2-0 win at Nancy at the weekend, presumably with an eye on this match, as well as the injury list, with Jeremy Menez and Adam Ounas brought back into things flanking Gaetan Laborde.
Dijon’s best performance was reaching the quarter-finals in 2008, and their focus has to be staying up – however, after winning 3-2 away at Lorient at the weekend, their next league game is against PSG. Olivier Dall’oglio could be forgiven for thinking that they’re almost certain to lose that one whoever he picks, so they might as well go for bust in the cup game.
In the last round Bordeaux hosted Ligue 2’s Clermont in a match that they dominated but could not decide until a very late winner from Malcom. Dijon had a more routine time of things travelling to CFA2 side Louhans-Cuiseaux and winning 2-0 with second-half goals from Julio Tavares and Jeremie Bela.
Neutrals will be hoping that this match is exciting as its league iteration, which ended 3-2 as Bordeaux came from behind thanks to a Francois Kamano brace in the 88th and 93rd minutes to dash Dijon’s hopes in what turned into a eight-game streak without a win for the newly promoted side. Arguably Dijon have been unlucky rather than actively bad, and having Mehdi Abeid back after a slightly shorter-than-expected trip to AFCON is a positive – he got the assist for the 93rd minute winner at Lorient.
Here’s hoping for a tight encounter where late goals could play a very important part.
Châteauroux (National) – Lorient (Ligue 1)
The Castelroussins reached this stage with a comfortable win over fellow National side Pau, new loan signing Clément Depres scoring a second half hat-trick in a 4-1 win. Châteauroux currently sit third in the National and come into this match fresh after their weekend fixture at Belfort was postponed. They have lost only once in their last ten games – although that was a 5-0 trouncing at home, where they have enjoyed less comfort than on their travels.
Nevertheless, this is a good chance for the team supported by ex-PSG president Michel Denisot to make progress: opponents Lorient remain the Ligue 1 lanterne rouge and, after a honeymoon period under Bernard Casoni, the team have lost their last two, well beaten by Monaco (no shame in that) before conceding a 93rd minute winner to Dijon at the weekend.
Promotion / relegation concerns are clearly the priority for both teams but a good cup run is always good for the confidence – and the hosts will be keen to perform well for last-round hero Depres, who has since been ruled out of action for a long period after breaking his ankle.
Bergerac (CFA) – Lens (Ligue 2)
Bergerac fans could rarely have felt such excitement since Jim Nettles was setting hearts aflutter in Jersey’s Bureau des Etrangers in the mid-80s. However, Bergerac Périgord’s penalty shoot-out win over Toulouse Rodéo, after a 2-2 draw, will have had them on the edge of their seats in a way that Midsomer Murders just could never manage.
Despite losing their last match 3-0 at Fontenay, the Bergeracois, who sit top of their CFA group (although third place Cholet have a game in hand – and we’ll leave the Wombles puns for another time), welcome Ligue 2 high-fliers Lens to the Gaston Simounet with high hopes of causing an upset. They are unbeaten at home since September and, with a Zidane (right back Youssef) in their ranks, the headlines write themselves – particularly in the club’s centenary year. Coach Fabien Pujo says that his team must believe that an exploit is possible, and that they will go all-out for the win.
Lens, who beat Metz 2-0 to reach this stage, have lost their last two matches and, while keen to bounce back, will surely see promotion as a priority. Take this match too lightly and Bergerac may well celebrate their anniversary in style.
Sarreguemines (CFA2) – Niort (Ligue 2)
One of the big upsets of the last round was fifth-tier Sarreguemines beating Ligue 2’s Reims with a brace from Hassan M’Barki (Gaetan Charbonnier getting one in the middle for the visitors). That was their second Ligue 2 scalp of the competition after seeing off Valenciennes in the previous round, and now there’s another one for them to have a crack at. Niort are definitely more VAFC-y than Reims-ish, so their lower-league hosts will be eyeing this with determination.
M’Barki has understandably become a focus for higher-level clubs, which the player admits caused him to reflect deeply : “at 29 years old, this is probably my only chance to touch, with my fingertips, the professional world”. However, he’s staying, and coach Sébastien Meyer has recently been voted coach of the year by the readers of Le Républicain Lorrain.
Niort beat DH side Blagnac in the last round with the only goal in the game coming from David Djigla. They are midtable with seemingly nothing else to focus on, so you would expect a first-team line-up from Denis Renaud, but expect Sarreguemines to ask some difficult questions. Mostly – can you stop M’Barki? But also worryingly – can they thaw out a pitch that was frozen to a depth of 10cm at the weekend, and keep it playable?
Le Poiré-sur-Vie (DH) – Strasbourg (Ligue 2)
In the last round Le Poiré sur Vie belied their Division d’Honneur status with an impressive 3-1 win over CFA side Viry Chatillon, with Antoine Letapissier, Claude Koutob and Marc Paris scoring the goals that sent the former National side through.
Currently topping their league table, the Vendée-based team will, as the lowest-standing team surviving in the competition, be wearing the PMU Petit Poucets shirts, and all involved are enjoying their moment in the spotlight – including club president Jean-Yves Cougnaud appearing on Christophe Dugarry’s RMC radio show.
Strasbourg, meanwhile, are still well in touch in the Ligue 2 promotion race and will see this trip west as a bit of a distraction, particularly after a recent draw and defeat ended a run of six straight wins.
Club president Marc Keller will hope to cut through the media attention of the Petit Poucet, get a straightforward win and move on. And he should know about low-key hard work being as important as the fanfare stuff – he scored France’s equaliser (a tap-in) in their 1-1 draw with Brazil after Roberto Carlos had scored that free kick.
Quevilly-Rouen (National) – Marseille Consolat (National)
The Tuesday game that guarantees we see a lower-league side in the next round matches up two third-tier sides, but it may not be a close encounter.
Quevilly beat CFA side Drancy 3-2 in the last round, with a hat-trick from Mehdy Guezoui and a red card for Valentin Sanson that made the last ten minutes a little stressful. However, they’ve faced bigger pressures in the past and prevailed – their cup previous includes reaching the semi-finals in 2010 and the final in 2012, beaten each time by just one goal, by PSG and OL respectively.
Marseille Consolat needed extra time to see off DH side Istres in the last round, the eventual 3-1 scoreline making the victory look more comfortable than it actually was. Particularly as all four goals came in added time, Remi Sergio getting a brace, Guy-Roland Niangbo getting the third.
The two teams are having rather different league seasons, QRM topping National while GSCM are bottom half. The hosts warmed up for this with what looks a highly enjoyable 5-0 thumping of Pau; interestingly, Guezoui didn’t score (he had one chalked off for offside), and to be fair Pau were down to ten men for the entire second half, but they still ‘atomisé’ their guests, which should put everyone in a positive frame of mind for this. Meanwhile Consolat had an unexpected weekend off as their match at Sedan was called off for pitch-frozenness.
The sides drew 2-2 in Marseille in the league fixture in early December, but with quality and home advantage on Quevilly’s side, it seems likely that they will be flying the flag for National in the next round.
Marseille (Ligue 1) – Lyon (Ligue 1)
Tuesday’s big game sees a second Olympico in ten days, after a comprehensive 3-1 win for OL in Ligue 1’s game 21. Matthieu Valbuena opened the scoring with a glorious effort against his former club – hashtag muted celebration – and the team held up a shirt for Gueïda Fofana, who has sadly been forced to retire due to injury. There followed a brace for Alexandre Lacazette punctuated by a header from Doria, proving to be dangerous at both ends of the pitch.
The Marseille defence, which had a surprisingly great record before the winter break, was an utter shambles at times, and OM fans will be hoping that the recent acquisition of Patrice Evra helps with that. For their part Lyon also did not look invulnerable at the back, so neutrals will be hoping for goals – and a continuation of the robust approach that saw last time’s referee run out of vanishing spray.
Both teams faced top-flight opposition in the last round, Marseille having a tighter time of things away at Toulouse, winning 2-1 after extra time, Remy Cabella with both goals. Lyon welcomed Montpellier, which we jokingly predicted as a nailed-on 5-1 for somebody, but Montpellier weren’t able to come up with the 1 in a 5-0 rollover by OL that featured some frankly fictional marking from the visitors, and goals for (deep breath) Lacazette, Mouctar Diakhaby, Nabil Fekir and a brace for Maxwel Cornet.
Marseille come into this on the back of a spirit-lifting 5-1 (it’s a thing) on Friday night as Montpellier continue to have conceptual issues with defending, which saw a hat-trick for Bafetimbi Gomis, another good performance by Cabella, and a decent first appearance for Evra, although he was at fault for the 1. Lyon, meanwhile, had a surprise 2-1 home loss to Lille. If Marseille have got their mojo – and Dmitri Payet, although he will presumably be in the stands for this – back, and the fans back on side, this could be a classic cup encounter.