Coupe de France 32emes : Sunday Part II
USL Dunkerque vs FC Metz
After a horrific start to the season, Ligue 1’s Metz began showing some signs of life shortly before the winter break, ending 2017 with two wins and a draw. Still seven points adrift at the foot of the table and with the survival odds stacked against them, Frederic Hantz’s men will look to continue in 2018 where they left off. This cup tie therefore takes on a real importance – both to retain the small soupçon of morale built in December and to embark on a Cup run that, if successful, may provide consolation in the likely event of relegation. Last season Metz went out at this stage, going down 2-0 at Ligue 2 Lens. They’ll be keen not to repeat that early exit this time around.
Standing in les Messins’ way, however, is National club USL Dunkerque. The northerners, who are going very well in the third tier and will be aiming for promotion to Ligue 2 this spring, will have mixed feelings about welcoming Metz to the Stade Marcel-Tribut: they have won only three of their home matches this season – losing three more – and reached this stage of the competition with four consecutive away wins, most recently 2-0 at Lille-Fives. Opening the scoring that day was ex-Strasbourg and -Alaves right back Marc Fachan, who surprisingly is the team’s joint-top scorer in the National, just behind Angers-loanee midfielder Mathias Serin. Between the posts for Didier Santini’s men will be Jonathan Ligali, the keeper on loan from top-flight Montpellier. His top-flight experience (including in the Champions League) may prove crucial in helping his team-mates deal with any nerves.
USLD have their own unique place in footballing history: it was in order to sign for the club that Jean-Marc Bosman took RFC Liege to court, resulting in a revolution in the football transfer landscape. Sadly on the pitch they have had little of note to celebrate since a Coupe de France semi-final appearance in 1929. This weekend gives the club a chance to create a little more history.
Vannes OC vs Stade Briochin
One of the ties that assures us of lower league representation in the next round sees National 3 side Vannes host National 2’s Stade Briochin in a Breton derby.
Vannes in their current guise have only existed since 1998 but have already seen some success, rising as high as Ligue 2 (winning the National) – and even more impressively reaching the Coupe de la Ligue final in 2009, overcoming Auxerre, Metz and Nice before going down 4-0 to Bordeaux.
While one of their strikers that day – Frederic Sammaritano – has gone on to bigger and better things, and their reserve keeper Benoit Costil is now a France international, the club has slipped down the ranks again – although they sit top of their National 3 group and have not yet experienced defeat this season. Their cup run has been less straightforward however, a 2-1 win at eighth tier US Liffré followed by a penalty shoot-out win at sixth division Saumur after a 0-0 draw.
Nevertheless, they will relish the chance to test themselves against a lightly higher-placed club as they welcome Stade Briochin to their Stade de la Rabine home.
Briochin were promoted in the summer after winning their CFA2 group and they have adjusted well to the National 2, sitting in fifth place and most recently holding third-placed Romorantin to a 0-0 draw.
The Saint-Brieuc side had an exotic start to their Coupe de France, smashing French Guyana’s ASC Le Geldar 9-1 (Thomas Poussevin scoring five!), before impressively giant-killing National side Laval 2-0, Mickael Martin the hero on that occasion with both goals.
Briochin won’t be too scared of Vannes, having won the league double over them last season (winning their home tie 5-0). However, Vannes aren’t daunted and are looking forward to getting their revenge in a match that will be televised on Eurosport. Defender Marvin Ducolvel, who said “I’m only thinking about the win”, put beautifully what the Coupe means to the lower league footballers and their nearest and dearest:
“it’s a real source of pride. It makes my parents happy, and seeing the smiles on my father’s and uncle’s faces after we qualified against Saumur makes me even prouder”.
Pride, local bragging rights and Coupe de France progress will be at stake this weekend in Brittany. It should be a cracker.