Guingamp Upset Neighbours Rennes by Lifting the 2014 Coupe De France
The fans of EA Guingamp are celebrating after a 2-0 win over Rennes secured their second Coupe de France victory in five years at the Stade de France on Saturday night.
It is an amazing achievement for a side playing in a town that only has a population of around 7,000 and means even more that the victory came against their Brittany rivals.
Although they started the game as underdogs, Guingamp controlled the majority of the match and took full advantage of Rennes' poor performance. In the first 20 minutes, Rennes barely managed to keep the ball out of their own half, and their opponents grew in confidence and looked to push Rennes back at every opportunity.
Guingamp's good play and pressure paid off after 37 minutes when they took a well-deserved lead. Claudio Beauvue found room on the right and his cross was headed back across the goal. Rennes ‘keeper Benoit Costil tried his best to punch it clear, but the ball fell to right-back Jonathan Martins Pereira, whose shot took a slight deflection before flying into the net.
Rennes tried to react in the remaining minutes but couldn’t get a foothold in the game. Coach Philippe Montanier had an important team talk to give at half-time, but in the first minute of the second half his words lost all meaning.
In their first attack of the half, Guingamp burst down the left-flank through Steven Langil, who played a perfect left-foot cross that found Mustapha Yatabare unmarked in the six-yard box. The big striker was never going to miss, and he silenced the Rennes fans and gave Guingamp a 2-0 lead.
There was no way back for Montanier’s side and Mamadou Samassa in the Guingamp goal had very little to do in the second half. Guingamp did what they do best and kept it tight at the back to ensure that, just like in 2009, the underdogs came out victorious in the Coupe de France final.
Read on for a few more things we learned from Saturday’s Breton Coupe de France final.
Breton Passion Shines Through Pre-Match
The build up to this match was filled with the memory of Guingamp’s 2009 Coupe de France victory over Rennes. Guingamp fans were hopeful that their side could again cause an upset over their Breton rivals, where as the Rennes fans were praying that lightning wouldn’t strike twice.
As the fans began to fill the stadium it was clear that it was going to be one of the best atmospheres that the Stade de France has seen for a great number of years.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Lille in 2011 was loud. The Quevilly fans made 2012’s fairy-tale an exciting occasion, while both Evian and Bordeaux were full of hope and excitement last season. However, this was a final with two sides steeped in footballing history and culture and the capacity Stade de France crowd were wonderful in creating an excellent pre-match atmosphere, and they showed the rest of France that Brittany is the footballing hub of the country.
Sometimes cup competitions can be subdued with thoughts of survival and league positions, but the Coupe de France means so much to these two clubs that any other aspirations went out of the window for 90 minutes, with the fans expecting nothing more than 100 percent from both sets of players.
Guingamp Tactics Stifle the Rennes Attack
Rennes went into Saturday’s final as the favourites to lift the trophy, but Guingamp weren’t going to let them lift the Coupe de France without a fight, and their early match tactics helped to cut out the Rennes threat.
With Swedish striker Ola Toivonen upfront on his own, Rennes looked to get him the ball and let his hold-up play bring the wingers and midfielders into the game.
Guingamp knew this would be their game plan, and they successfully squeezed the midfield so tight that Rennes couldn’t influence the game in the way Philippe Montanier would have wanted.
The Guingamp defence won every second ball and by playing a high line stopped the Rennes midfield finding any time on the ball and it forced les Rouges et Noir into making a lot of simple mistakes.
Players like Kamil Grosicki and Romain Alessandrini were all but invisible on the wings, Abdoulaye Doucoure wasn’t able to sprint from deep and link up with Toivonen, and after 35 minutes the Rennes side already looked a beaten side.
The early second-half strike from Mustapha Yatabare ended any hopes of a Rennes comeback, they never looked like they believed in themselves and the game petered out with Guingamp holding on to their 2-0 lead.
Jocelyn Gourvennec Set for Big Things in Management
Outside of France the name Jocelyn Gourvennec means very little, but over the past two years the stock of Guingamp’s coach has dramatically increased in value.
Now with a Coupe de France victory under his belt and the prospect of Europa League football ahead, it is a name that is going to become more and more familiar in the next couple of years.
He has taken Guingamp back into Ligue 1, and although they could still face relegation this season he has done a magnificent job with a team devoid of any stars that have so often this season punched above their weight.
Gourvennec's style is to make his team very hard to beat. They may not score a lot of goals, but they make sure that the opposition are restricted and frustrated.
This Coupe de France victory was classic Guingamp and classic Gourvennec. They pushed high up the field and squeezed the game in midfield. They stopped Rennes playing football and hit on the break when the opportunity arose.
Under Gourvennec, there is so much potential in this side. They will be a difficult side to face in Europe, with the Stade Roudourou due to become a fortress.
Impressive performances in the Europa League will make it very hard for Guingamp to hold onto their talismanic manager.
Pressure to Increase on Rennes Coach Philippe Montanier
Defeat in the Coupe de France final means that the pressure on Rennes coach Philippe Montanier has increased for next season.
The Frenchman was brought in from Real Sociedad after an excellent spell in Spain, and the expectations were that he could rebuild this side into European contenders.
Montanier was given sufficient funds in January to strengthen the side, and the signings of Paul-Georges Ntep, Ola Toivonen and Kamil Grosicki have all impressed at times this season.
The first season under Montanier has been full of inconsistencies, and they have done fairly well to move up to 15th place, but the club's owners would have expected more.
Now, without the excitement of European football next season, Montanier may struggle to entice the quality of player he would like to the club. Being in the Europa League would have been a huge boost to the Breton club and the pressure is now on Montanier to provide results.
Failure to lift the cup will bring with it expectations of progress next season. If Rennes are not challenging for the places in next season’s Europa League, it will be interesting to see how much faith the Rennes hierarchy will have in the former Valenciennes coach.
Cup Loss May Open the Door for Exits This Summer
It will be interesting to see how much this defeat in the Coupe de France final will affect Rennes this summer. The lack of European football could mean a failure to land some high quality targets, but it could also mean a few players of great importance leave the club this summer.
There is likely to be lots of interest in the talents of Romain Alessandrini, Benoit Costil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tiemoue Bakayoko, and one or two might be tempted to leave the club for pastures new.
It would be a huge shame if talented youngsters Doucoure and Bakayoko were to leave, though the new contract signed by the former should see him stay at the Stade de la Route de Lorient for the next couple of years, but for Costil and Alessandrini it could be a different story.
Alessandrini was heavily linked with hometown club Marseille last season. After recovering from a bad knee injury the midfielder hasn’t quite looked himself since his return, and Alessandrini will want to play European football at this stage of his career. Rennes' failure could see him interested in a move once again and it would be a surprise to see him at the club next season.
Guingamp Must Now Concentrate on League Survival
Usually, the Coupe de France is the season-ending event in French football. However, with the 2014 World Cup imminent, the final was pushed forward and there are still three games for both the finalists to play this season.
Rennes are fairly comfortable in 15th place, six points from the relegation zone, but for Guingamp the season still hangs on a knife-edge. They are only four points clear of the relegation zone and games against Monaco, Toulouse and Marseille mean that picking up points will not be easy.
Their place in Ligue 1 is far from secure, and it would be a disastrous end to the campaign if they had to prepare for their Europa League campaign while playing in Ligue 2.
There are similarities to the fate of Wigan Athletic in England last season. They had a wonderful day winning the English FA Cup, but they would have swapped that success for top-flight football. There is little doubt that Guingamp and Jocelyn Gourvennec would happily do the same after Saturday’s win.
There is no time for the Guingamp players to bask in their glory, they play Monaco on Wednesday and if they could pick up another victory it would all but secure their Ligue 1 status.
The time for celebration will come, but for now they have to focus on the task at hand. Survive in Ligue 1 and the end of season celebrations will be even sweeter than their cup success.