Coupe de France 32emes : Saturday Part II
The second slice of Coupe de France action sees two even match-ups at each end of the scale, as fifth-tier teams FC Saint-Lo Manche and FCM Aubervilliers meet up, and Ligue 1 sides Toulouse and Nice, ditto. Another seven matches will be played at this time, including one of the petits poucets – eighth tier AC Houilles against National 1 side Concarneau LINK, and a couple of other National sides trying to take down top-flight opposition.
FC Saint-Lo Manche v FCM Aubervilliers
As well as their level, one thing that FCSLM and FCMA have in common is a high-point in their cup history – both reached the 16emes in 1995, to be knocked out by second-tier opposition; Mulhouse (on penalties, the last saved by an outfield player in goal) and Montpellier respectively. Saint-Lô went just as close just two years later, when they pushed top-tier Caen to extra-time at the same stage before losing 2-1.
Both teams will therefore be hoping that this edition takes them even further than before – and both struggled a little in the last round. Saint-Lô needed penalties to beat Change US, after earlier needing extra time to defeat an eighth-tier team in the sixth round (although, when the final result is 4-1 a.e.t it does suggest that the last 30 minutes were entertaining); FCMA needed extra time to win 1-0 away at La Brede – and in fact haven’t had a home tie since the 3rd round.
Another similarity is that both are doing well in the league, Saint-Lô are top of the Normandie group, and Aubervilliers 3rd in the Ile de France. In close proximity to Paris, Auber is well-known for its youth programme, being the club formateur for players such as Abou Diaby, Cheick Doukouré and Loïck Landre.
This match therefore looks to be a close encounter that will guarantee another ‘minnow’ through to the next round.
Toulouse v Nice, SC Schiltigheim v Auxerre, Chartres v Tours, Saint-Malo v Chateauroux and Gazelec v Grenoble.
Toulouse are not in a good place, Nice look to be pairing a league recovery with what might be a difficult window. This could go not just either way but anywhere. Pascal Dupraz’s knitwear aside, this was a 2-1 win for Nice in the Ligue 1 equivalent in a match which saw Andy Delort open the scoring in the third minute, Dante get sent off in the first half, Mario Balotelli equalise from the penalty spot with ten minutes to go after Kevin Amian also got sent off, and Bassem Srarfi get the winner in injury time. With a bit of luck, therefore, this one should be entertaining.
In the cup’s long history there have been many cupsets, but only a dozen or so that took down top-flight teams – one of those mice who roared were Schiltigheim from Alsace, who in an epic campaign in the 2002/3 season, reached the quarter-finals after knocking out Troyes at this stage. They then went on to beat two Ligue 2 sides, Beauvais and Toulouse, both to nil, to become one of a handful of fifth-tier teams to make the last eight of the competition. Sadly, they then came up against Rennes, also of Ligue 1 – they opened the scoring (past one Petr Cech in the SRFC goal) but fell at the last to goals from Toifilou Maoulida (now of Tours) and Frederic Piquionne, the last in the 88th minute. ‘Schilik’ are now a level higher, so Auxerre, hovering above the relegation zone in Ligue 2 and winless in seven league matches, might just be a little bit nervous about this one.
Another Ligue 2 side possibly standing on a chair and waving a broom around are Tours, who are having what can charitably be described as a terrible season, sitting bottom of the league with only 5 points, 10 goals, and only a cup run to stave off the misery. They will be facing Chartres, who don’t appear to be very good, sitting seventh in National 2 Group D, but might not need to be, and have already seen off Ligue 2 opposition, beating Orleans 3-1 in the seventh round.
Fellow fourth-tier side Saint-Malo look less likely to prevail against mid-table Chateauroux (Ligue 2), needing extra-time – albeit scoring three goals in it – against seventh-tier Essertais in the last round. Their visitors also needed extra time to beat fifth-tier Avoine Chinon 3-2 before beating National 1 side Cholet 5-3 in the last round, but should have what it takes to deal with this latest challenge.
Finally, Gazelec Ajaccio of Ligue 2 will host National 1 side Grenoble, who sit second in the table behind Rodez but have yet to face a higher team in the cup. They will have no fear, however, as they have made the quarter-finals three times as well as a semi-final in 2009 when they briefly shone in Ligue 1 before financial worries coupled with sporting results saw them tumble down the league pyramid to the fifth tier. Having clawed their way back up to National 1, they will be looking back to that august history to spur them on to a doable victory, albeit a long way from home.
Saturday afternoon looks to be a great set of fixtures, therefore, with minnows, upset chances, and history all on the cards.