On Saturday, the Canaries dominated Nice in the final (1-0). "A miracle" for their coach, who has not forgotten that he was playing maintenance in Ligue 1 a year ago.
The coach of FC Nantes, in the middle of his players, after the victory in the Coupe de France, on May 7, 2022 in Saint-Denis. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
The Football Club of Nantes is therefore not just a nostalgia, this club condemned to live in the "it was better before", this monument in danger of French football from which we hear news on occasion, a little preoccupied . This Saturday, May 7, the Canaries are proud, happy and plump. In a very yellow Stade de Frande, Nantes won their fourth Coupe de France, more realistic and less feverish than OGC Nice (1-0).
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"I think we're going to sleep at the stadium tonight," even wanted to believe Marcus Coco. The midfielder and his teammates ended up leaving the pitch, almost reluctantly. A penalty converted by Ludovic Blas (47th) at the very beginning of the second period was enough to delight the Nantes supporters and his Brigade Loire, also dominating in the stands.
For one evening, the FCN ultras put aside the chants and criticism against Waldemar Kita. A kind of birthday present for the 69th birthday of this president owner never accepted and always decried fifteen years after his arrival. “Even if they win on Saturday, the relationship between the supporters and Kita will not change. There is too much mistrust accumulated for years, “said Olivier Quint, FCN player between 2001 and 2007, before the final.
Never mind. Nantes lifted its fourth Charles-Simon trophy (after 1979, 1999 and 2000) with a coach, Antoine Kombouaré, who no longer speaks to his president on the latest news. Nothing very surprising under the Kita era of which the New Caledonian is only ever the fifteenth technician. One more, we thought when he succeeded Raymond Domenech – Kita’s baroque choice – in February 2021.
As the cliché goes, “everything goes very fast in football”. Antoine Kombouaré was the first to recognize him at a press conference. The word "miracle" comes up three times. Miracle for a team that saved its head in Ligue 1 in the play-off in May 2021 and for a coach decried, even mocked in his previous clubs (Guingamp, Dijon, Toulouse) as above all concerned about his handicap in golf. “We come from nowhere. A year ago, we could die and end up in Ligue 2… It's almost miraculous”, Kombouaré was surprised himself.
Lafont, the paying choice of Kombouaré
At 58, the man has yet known others in his career. He won titles with Paris Saint-Germain as a player and then as a coach, scored a legendary goal against Real Madrid one evening in 1993, but he never imagined winning with his favorite club, the one for which he left his New Caledonia at the age of 19. "I'm going through a sick thing. I had never dreamed of coaching this club, let alone winning a trophy with it,” he says.
In ten minutes, this loudmouth who does not like to be reduced to this "leader of men" side splits the armor. He talks about his players whom he pushes, sometimes yells at and loves in the end like his sons, of all his won trophies that he would have exchanged for this evening's or even of a life that he "wouldn't have imagined as beautiful”.
This final was especially beautiful for its atmosphere and the happiness of the winner. The ninth in the championship has beaten a fifth in poor form in recent weeks, which in the end is never more than a half surprise. “We didn't have a grand final,” admitted Christophe Galtier. The Nice coach had the merit of not hiding behind his little finger and the penalty awarded by Stéphanie Frappart following a handball from Hicham Boudaoui. The kind of situation that always leads to discussion and frustration.
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Behind, the Nantes had the opportunity to take shelter by Chirivella and Simons, but left Nice hoped. The 70th minute arrives. Alban Lafont deflects a shot from Amine Gouiri, then makes an exceptional save worthy of a handball goalkeeper on the recovery of Andy Delort. Holder in the league, Lafont had followed the entire campaign in the Coupe de France from the sidelines in favor of his understudy, Rémy Descamps. But this Saturday night. “When you make a final, you have to put the best. Alban is better than Rémy”, had decided and justified Antoine Kombouaré before the meeting.
Eighteen years after an anecdotal participation in the defunct Intertoto Cup, FC Nantes will play in the Europa League next season. “A miracle”, as Antoine Kombouaré would say. The opportunity to revive the great European hours at the Beaujoire stadium, not far from the banks of the Loire, where the native of Nouméa feels at home. “You know, I have my children and three grandchildren now in France. So I think we'll stay here. When I left New Caledonia, I took my roots and planted them on the banks of the Loire… That's where I'm happy. And all the people of Nantes with him.
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