Coupe de France 8emes – FC Chambly Oise v US Granville
Considering that we are now at the business end of the Coupe de France, it is rare to find a third-tier team cast as the nasty giant, but that is the role in which National outfit Chambly find themselves, as they host fourth-tier giant-slayers Granville.
Chambly currently sit 11th in the National, although the tight nature of the division means that they are only three points outside the relegation zone and so unable to focus all-out on Cup progress – although they will take their current position, considering they failed to win until matchday 8. Long-term the club is on an upward curve, this is their fourth straight season in the third tier and last year they finished fifth and level on points with Paris FC, who made the promotion play-off in third place. In the Cup, too, they gave Monaco a tough time last season, eventually only going down 5-4 after extra time (having overcome a three goal deficit). This year’s round of 16 appearance is their best ever Coupe run and progress to the quarter final would be a real statement of intent of their upward mobility.
Their result in the last round gave an indication of their ability, as they travelled to Ligue 2 Chateauroux and overcame an experienced team which included former Ligue 1 stalwarts including Maxime Barthelme, Gregory Bourillon and Christophe Mandanne. Midfielder Lassana Doucoure scored the Chambly equaliser which eventually took them to penalties, where they scored all four of their spot kicks to progress.
Doucoure (one of three Doucoures in the Chambly squad) also scored the equalising goal at the weekend as the team modelled on Inter Milan came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at promotion-chasing Entente SSG – indicating that coach (and co-founder) Bruno Luzi’s men are far from a pushover.
Although trying to motivate his team – who were disappointed not to receive a home draw for this round of 16 – Granville coach Johan Gallon perhaps inadvertently motivated his opponents, when he was caught on camera telling his players “What is Chambly? They’re all 2 metres tall, weigh 100 kilos – but they’re not footballers.” He has since tried to backtrack, and spoken of his admiration for Chambly and what they have achieved in recent years, but as they cliché goes, he may have saved Luzi from needing to write a pre-match pep talk.
That aberration aside, Granville have won many friends during this Cup run, as the National 2 team look to match their stunning achievement of two years ago, when they reached the quarter final. After seeing off Bordeaux two rounds ago, last time out they impressively knocked out National club Concarneau. Winger Robin Theault cancelled out an early Thoniers strike to take the game into extra time, where Granville fell behind again, before a Jordan Blondel double secured a 3-2 win, the winner coming five minutes from time.
Granville – the Petit Poucet for the second consecutive round – come into the match off a solid enough 1-1 draw at Boulogne-Billancourt which keeps them safely mid-table, and with no promotion or relegation concerns, can go all out to keep exciting their fans. Last round’s hero Blondel says “The most important thing is to make people happy. And what we did is crazy. Watching it back, it’s unbelievable.” Team-mate Jonathan Beaulieu agrees: “Magic. That’s the best word to describe what we’ve done”. Of this round, Blondel observes “it won’t be easy because we’re away from our fans and we would have liked to share this moment with them. But at this stage hierarchy isn’t important. It will be 50-50 and whoever wants it the most will win.”
There might be a bit more to it than that and Chambly will start as favourites. But if Blondel is right and it’s about who wants it the most, then Granville have every chance of making the last eight yet again.