Coupe de France 32emes : AC Houilles v US Concarneau
The petit poucet of the round, along with FC Still, is eighth-tier AC Houilles from the Paris Ile-de-France region, who will be welcoming third-tier Concarneau to their Stade Maurice Baquet. This was finally OK’d by the authorities after some necessary works were done to bring the facilities up to standard – which were to add a players’ tunnel, extend the benches so staff as well as players could sit down, and put washing basins in the dressing rooms. The magic of the cup also brings some more prosaic requirements.
HAC started their cup campaign back in mid-August, facing a couple of sixth-tier teams in Meaux, whom they beat 3-2, and Bretteville, beaten 1-0 in the 7th round with a goal from Armand Tailly. They also beat outre-mer side AS Matoury 2-1 in the last round, with second-half goals from Franck Bollaert and Paul Ntolla, to book their place in the round of 64.
Here, they were hoping for one of those David v Goliath draws that are so characteristic of the cup – and had a very specific opponent in mind : “now, we’re all dreaming of PSG,” said Ntolla after the win against Matoury. “It’s nearby to us, and most of our players support them”. More than that, some of their players have played for them, goalkeeper Kevin Baillif spending time at the parisien centre de formation, and midfielder Mickael Couceiro playing for the reserves. Captain and striker Toufik Ben Saada also brings valuable experience, having played at National (RUFC Calais) and also CFA levels earlier in his career, including a couple of cup matches at this point.
Concarneau might be five divisions above les Houillards, but they are hovering nervously above the relegation zone only on goal difference, and in very indifferent form in the league. The cup has been something of a respite from that, which they will be hoping continues. Their first appearance saw them go 3-0 up inside 20 minutes away at fifth-tier Montagnarde before later conceding a penalty. Their second was a cheerful 7-0 demolition of Outre-mer team Golden Lion, which saw a first-half hat-trick for midfielder Said Idazza, a brace from top-scorer Julio Donisa, and goals from Herman Kore and ex-Leyton Orient substitute Yohann Lasiment, whose career has also taken in Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria. Their proudest moment, however, was an eighth round victory over Ligue 2 side Stade Brestois, where they came from 2-0 down at half-time to force extra time thanks to goals from Vincent Richetin and Idazza – who also got the winner.
However, as well as the gap between them, Les Thoniers have a decent cup pedigree, with multiple post Christmas appearances, the best being in 2014/15, when they reached the quarter-finals, to lose 2-1 to Guingamp – who had also beaten them the previous season in the 16emes, after extra time, before going on to lift the trophy. Meanwhile Houilles have to look back further for their last grand exploit – to the wartime editions which saw France cut into three, a zone occupée, zone interdite, and zone non-occupée, each zone sending their champion forward. In December 1940 they reached the 16emes of the zone occupée, to lose 2-0 to Stade de Reims.
The odds are with the National side, therefore, but that may not bother HAC that much – although it would be nice to set up a local derby in the next round with the club from down the road…
“Arriver en 32es de finale est déjà une réussite, le reste n’est que du bonus. Il était inconcevable que nous allions aller aussi loin cette année” – President Xavier Blot