Coupe de France Semi-Final Preview : Angers SCO v EA Guingamp
It’s the business end of the season and as well as a title race, that also means the prospect of Cup Glory. While many eyes will turn to the other semi-final, PSG v Monaco, as an adjunct to the title race (Monaco still edging that), League Cup (PSG surprisingly comprehensive victors) and relative success in European competition (Monaco definitely edging that), there is another game in town.
Guingamp narrowly beat petit poucet Frejus Saint-Raphael in the last round, Alexandre Mendy with the only goal of the game, after beating long-term cup trouble-makers Quevilly and needing extra time to see off National side Les Herbiers before that. Meanwhile Angers beat Bordeaux 2-1 (Kevin Berigaud, Cheikh N’Doye), after earlier facing CA Bastia, and Caen, in a more challenging set of fixtures. But that was then, and this is now.
Both teams seemed to have an eye on this game at the weekend as Angers lost 3-2 away at relegation-threatened Dijon, and Guingamp ditto 3-0 at Lille. However, Angers caused some extremely nervous moments for their hosts who were 3-0 up at half-time, with two goals in two minutes from Thomas Mangani (penalty) and Karl Toko Ekambi, one of their brightest lights this season. And while having lost four on the spin in the league might not look fabulous, it’s worth noting that this included the top two – and potential final candidates – Monaco and PSG, coming to visit. In both those games Angers put in a good effort, but lacked a little luck – and also finishing.
This is something of a theme; Angers might not be the defensive machine they were in their rookie season, with 46 conceded in the league, but while they make a decent amount of chances, their conversion rate is poor, with nobody in double figures for goals – Famara Diedhiou is top with 9 in all competitions. Ironic then, that their previous best result in the cup was to make the final in 1957 – which they lost 6-3 to Toulouse.
Their visitors Guingamp won this competition in 2009 and 2014, most recently adding a dash of can-be-arsed to French representation in the Europa League, which made for a refreshing change. They are at least top half in the league, but their defence seems little different from ASCO and their scoring only marginally better – Jimmy Briand has 11. More interesting to watch, perhaps, are Nill de Pauw from the right, Mendy, and maybe Ludovic Blas in central midfield – sadly attacker Marcus Coco is injured.
Neither of these sides are blessed with a youthful mien – both being in the top three oldest squads in Ligue 1 – but they both have some canny operators, and not just on the field. Guingamp replaced outgoing Jocelyn Gourvennec with Antoine Kombouare, who won this competition twice as a player and once as a manager, albeit with PSG. And Angers have Stephane Moulin, in his sixth year in charge. He took ASCO to an astonishing (if not that exciting to watch) ninth-place finish in 2015/16, their first season back in Ligue 1 – for context, the other two promotees went down – and despite a less promising table position at the moment (14th) they don’t look in danger.
With no chance of European competition through their league place, and minimal danger of going down, both teams can be expected to take this seriously. Home advantage will probably level out the league difference between them, so this could be a tight encounter – don’t expect many goals, or rule out extra time.
Angers : Letellier, Petric – Cissokho, Manceau, Pavlovic, Thomas, Traoré – Capelle, Ndoye, Mangani, Santamaria, Tait – Bamba, Bérigaud, Diedhiou, Pépé, Sunu, Toko Ekambi
Guingamp : Johnsson, Guivarch – Ikoko, Sorbon, Marçal, Sankoh, Martins Pereira, Kerbrat – Deaux, Giresse, Blas, de Pauw, Bodmer, Didot, Diallo – Privat, Briand, Mendy, Salibur