Europa League – FC Nantes return to Europe after two decades of abstinence

Europa League – FC Nantes return to Europe after two decades of abstinence

Europa League – FC Nantes return to Europe after two decades of abstinence

The last time FC Nantes appeared on the European stage was in August 2004. A 2-1 win in the second leg of the Intertoto Cup semi-final was not enough to win against Czechs Slovan Liberec. And for the big posters, we have to go back to the 2001-2002 season, the one after the last championship title. Nantes had finished first in their first round of the Champions League in the autumn ahead of Galatasaray, PSV Eindhoven and Lazio Roma, before sinking into the second group stage between November and March, last behind Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Boavista.

Since then, FCN has flirted more often with relegation, even with a team quite similar to their current one just over a year ago, than with European seats. For this great comeback, the fans were a little disappointed with the draw: instead of the expected shock with a cador like Arsenal, Manchester United or Roma, the Canaries will be joined by Olympiakos, Friborg and Qarabag. This could explain why the stadium will be well stocked but not necessarily sold out, when everything sold out very quickly for Saturday’s PSG reception.

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Coach Antoine Kombouaré saw an opening in this draw, a chance for Nantes’ little thumb to do well, especially since 3rd place qualifies for a play-off in the Europa League Conference in February: “There is a shot to play”, he repeats. It doesn’t even take a big name to be tough: Freiburg is currently leader of the Bundesliga after 5 days, while Olympiakos and Qarabag are big starters in European cups, and often also in the top category for the Greeks.

Olympiakos jumped gear this summer, marked by a 4-0 home defeat to Maccabi Haifa in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. But coach Carlos Corberan has clearly shown his goal of 1st place in the group and has a much more experienced squad than Nantes. Thus, the 24 Canaries registered by UEFA for this campaign total 160 European games, a level to which Olympiakos midfielder Matthieu Valbuena (129) approaches alone, not to mention Marcelo’s 102 games and 5 Champions League titles. even if the Brazilian team, which arrived at the very end of the transfer window and still out of shape, was not held back in the group.

“This PSG is still too light to aim for the final victory”

The executives remained

For his first European season, Waldemar Kita, who bought FC Nantes just relegated to Ligue 2 in 2007, vowed to remove his checkbook to ensure adequate recruitment. But among the overpriced players, those who weren’t interested and those who Kombouaré turned down, the group seems ill-equipped for the marathon of games that lies ahead until mid-November.

Of course, Alban Lafont, Moses Simon and Ludovic Blas remained, and the four summer recruits are promising, starting with the Egyptian Mostafa Mohamed, but the team risks not having depth on the bench, especially in the event of an injury. And as a twist of fate, the Canaries will meet South Korean striker Hwang Ui-Jo on Thursday, whom Kombouaré has been keen to bring to Nantes this summer.

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