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Romance of the Cup


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I liked this story, still good to see a big cup shock once in a while:


Lens bundled out by amateurs

Wed 28 Feb, 08:35 PM


PARIS (AFP) - Champions League hopefuls Lens were bundled out of the French Cup by determined amateurs Montceau-les-Mines on Wednesday.


A 78th minute penalty proved enough for the Cup minnows to secure a 1-0 home victory over the French top flight side, who currently sit second in the league behind champions Lyon.


Montceau have now joined Nantes and Marseille in the semi-finals of the Cup. Paris St Germain and Sochaux will fight out the fourth and final spot later Wednesday.


The hosts had dumped top flight side Bordeaux out of the competition in the previous round and again showed their fighting spirit to keep from kick-off to the final whistle.


"We're very proud of the players," said Montceau coach Yannick Chandioux.


"When you play a first division side who are also competing in Europe and are in form you have some anxious moments.


"But we played even better than against Bordeaux. We had a lot more openings and the only thing that annoyed me was that we could have let it slip through out fingers by missing those chances."


Montceau, based in the south of Burgundy, battled from start to finish against a Lens side which failed to fulfil its potential.


Montceau finally earned a chance to pull ahead when Lens 'keeper Sebastien Chabbert fouled Julien Serpry in the box.


Striker Christophe Alidor stepped up and made no mistake with the resulting penalty.


In a tense end to the match Montceau hit the post soon afterwards. Lens then failed to grab a crucial equaliser a few minutes before time when several, concurrent shots were blocked by the hosts' defence.

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It's maybe not so surprising in France.


4th division Calais got to the cup final a few years ago, and it only took a dive in extra time for Auxerre to beat them.


And here's the one, which I remember well, that you were on about:


9 May 2000, French Cup Final, Paris

Most people had been expecting Calais, an amateur team playing in France's fourth division, to get knocked out of the Coupe de France - France's equivalent of the FA Cup - for months. They had a dowdy little ground in the back streets of town and average home gates of 800. The team was made up of bit-part players - house-painters, youth workers, shelf-stackers, students.


To reach the Stade de France and a final against first division Nantes - who were also the cup holders - they had beaten Cannes and Lille (both second division), then Strasbourg and Bordeaux (both first division). Today's English equivalent would be a conference team such as Stevenage knocking out Ipswich, Leicester, Aston Villa and Portsmouth to face Liverpool.

By the day of the final, all of France (Nantes excepted) and even some of us in England were supporting the unpaid part-timers (Watford fans had adopted them as a kind of Euro-Watford, because Calais also played in yellow and red). Calais took the lead inside 35 minutes when a deflected shot from forward Jerome Dutitre went in through the legs of the Nantes goalkeeper. From then on, they were without fear. Going forward they offered little threat, but they matched the cup holders charge for charge, tackle for tackle.


Five minutes into the second half, Antoine Sibierski, who now plays for Newcastle, equalised for Nantes. We stood by for the goal avalanche that was sure to follow. It didn't. Though Nantes dominated the second half, weary Calais hung on. The game lurched towards extra time and it was Nantes who looked increasingly shaky. We were in the last minute of normal time. The sheer impossibility of everything that had gone before made us believe that Calais must win in extra time: it was in the script.


Then Nantes's substitute striker, Alain Caveglia, got loose inside the box. Three times Calais's centre-back Fabrice Baron blocked him with clumsy lunges. At the third tackle, Caveglia flung himself optimistically forward and the referee pointed to the spot. Sibierski's spot-kick hit goalkeeper Cedric Schille on the knee and bounced into the roof of the net.


The very last minute. How cruel was that? When the final whistle went, Fabrice Baron staggered away, hunched and weeping. But he was not alone. Everyone in the Stade de France seemed to be sobbing, like five-year-olds who had just been told out there was no Santa Claus.

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