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Neutral sports fans from all over the world always support the underdogs in a clash between giants and minnows. It’s nice to see a smaller team, or a sportsman that’s not so famous or experienced, win a trophy.
That’s why everyone was waiting to see if Quevilly from the French Third division will continue their amazing run of results and win against Lyon in the National Cup final on Saturday. Well, they didn’t, but they deserve our respect for what they did in the tournament this season.
But before concentrating on this year’s competition, I’d like to take a look back in history, because the French Cup is one of the few domestic tournaments in the world, known for the upsets that happen there every season.
Since 1999, six teams from the lower levels of French football have appeared in the Cup final. Only one out of those six has actually won the trophy, but that’s not the point really, is it?
In 1999 the final was between a then very strong FC Nantes and second division CS Sedan. Nantes won 1-0, the goal coming from a penalty by Olivier Monterrubio in the second half. The Canaries had players such as Mickael Landreu, Salomon Olembe, Eric Carriere and the above mentioned Monterrubio in their squad, but they still found it rather difficult to win against their opponents.
Sedan took part in one of the craziest games in the competition up to date back then, when they had to face Le Mans in the semi-finals. The match finished 1-1, so extra time had to be played. Olivier Quint made it 2-1 in the 96th minute, and Cameroon international Pius Ndiefy scored the third in the 108th. Chagnaud then made it 3-2, before Ndiefy got another one in the 118th for 4-2. But that wasn’t everything, as Revillet made it 4-3 in the 120th minute. A crazy, crazy game, which will remain forever in the history of French football.
Next season, in 2000, it was Nantes again who lifted the Cup, this time winning in the final 2-1 against Calais RUFC. The Canaries were, as I already said, a very strong team back then, while Calais was playing in the fourth tier. On their way to the final the underdogs knocked out teams such as Strasbourg and Bordeaux, and were very close to causing a major upset against Nantes as well.
In front of almost 80 000 at Stade de-France Calais scored in the first half, the goal coming from Dutitre. Shortly after the start of the second part Antoine Sibierski, who would later play for Manchester City and Newcastle equalized, before he again scored a penalty in the last minute to give his team the win and bring the trophy to Nantes for the second year in a row.
In 2001 it was again a clash between a team from the top division and one from the second flight. Strasbourg beat Amiens SC in the final; regular time and extra time finished 0-0, but Strasbourg won 5-4 on penalties.
Flash forward to 2004, the final then being between PSG and Chateauroux. The Ligue 2 side beat Monaco on their way to the last game, but PSG, led by Pauleta were too tough for the ambitious minnows, the team from the capital winning 1-0 in the end.
In 2009 we saw a Second Division team win the Cup, as Guingamp surprised many by defeating Rennes 2-1 at Stade de-France on the 9th of May. The favorites opened the scoring by American defender Carlos Bocanegra, but Guingamp’s striker Eduardo scored two near the end of full time, thus giving his team the victory and their first ever French Cup trophy.
Which leads us to this season’s edition of the Couple de France and the final between the mighty Lyon and third tier side Quevilly. I don’t think anyone expected the semi-pro team to reach this stage of the competition, especially having in mind that they had to face clubs such as Marseille and Rennes in the quarterfinals and semi-finals.
But maybe we underestimated them a bit, because just three season ago they played in the semi-finals again, although then they lost to PSG 1-0.
So how does a third division team, which until last week might have gotten relegated to the fourth tier of French football, make it to the final of the national cup and almost cause a huge upset? Yes, because Lyon was supposed to win comfortably, yet they managed only a 1-0 victory thanks to a first half goal by Lisandro Lopez.
See, for many the beauty of the game is seen in the biggest derbies, in games such as Barcelona-Real Madrid or Manchester City-Manchester United. And sure enough, during these games we always see football at its highest levels, football that leaves us wondering if these players are really normal human beings.
But what Quevilly did, what Cuingamp, Amiens, Calais, Sedan, Chateauroux did, that also proves the beauty of football, that’s what makes it the greatest game in the world. How come some people not see what amazing stories we have here? Quevally, a team playing in a 2 500 capacity stadium all of a sudden find themselves at Stade de-France in front of 80 000 people. Dear God, the village this team comes from has a population of a bit over 20 000 people!
This is great, this demonstrates the bravery, the courage and the love of the game that some people still have. This shows us that despite the fact that football is becoming more of an entertainment industry, there still are people out there who plainly love the sport.
There are not enough words to describe my admiration for the players and coaches of Quevilly. Not enough words to describe my joy when they qualified for the final. And, no offence to any Lyon fans, but I really hoped that the semi-pro team might pull off another big surprise and win the Cup.
Not that this story isn’t beautiful enough, but it could have become a bit like those folklore legends that are passed from one generation to another.
By the way, there is a chance that Quevilly qualify for next season’s Europa League, depending on the final standings in Ligue 1. Can you imagine how wonderful this would be?
But no matter what happens to this club in the future, the players are already legends. They are heroes in their home village; they’re heroes all over France and even Europe. Thanks Quevally, for reminding us that football is first of all a sport, and then a means of making money. Thank you for this beautiful story, and congratulations about your courage, about your drive and desire to play the game. A bow to the ground to you, we’ll be waiting to see what you have in store for us next year.