Evian looks to crown rising stardom in French Cup final

Evian looks to crown rising stardom in French Cup final

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Evian looks to crown rising stardom in French Cup final

Bordeaux defender Marc Planus (L) fights for the ball with Evian’s Tunisian forward Saber Khelifa (R) on May 26, 2013, during a match at the Cheban Delmas. AFP photo

Unfancied Evian will be looking to cap their meteoric rise to the top of French football with a first major trophy when they face Bordeaux, traditionally one of the country’s most successful clubs, in tonight’s French Cup final.

This will be a first ever national Cup final for the club from the shores of Lake Geneva, and the biggest moment yet in its brief but successful history.

It has just completed its second season in Ligue 1, avoiding relegation only on the last day, so comes into the game at the Stade de France as outsiders.

Indeed, when Bordeaux last won the Ligue 1 title, in 2009, Evian was playing in the amateur fourth tier, but the backing of food processing multinational Danone has helped the club from the shadow of some of France’s tallest mountains to scale the heights since then.

Now Evian, who plays its games 80 kilometers away in Annecy because it lacks a stadium of its own, stands just one win away from European qualification.

‘Winning silverware’

“Playing in Europe was not an objective when I arrived at the club,” said veteran captain Olivier Sorlin, who signed for Evian in 2010, when it was in Ligue 2.

“But the most important thing is that we win the final. Winning some silverware would be great for a club as young as us.”

Evian has enjoyed a remarkable Cup run, beating Paris Saint-Germain on penalties in the quarterfinals before hammering Lorient 4-0 in the semis.

Its squad arrived in Paris on May 29, with Tunisian international forward Saber Khlifa its biggest threat.
Shortly before joining Evian, Khlifa found himself on loan at Libyan club Al-Ahly Benghazi when revolution broke out in the country in 2011.

Khlifa was trapped in a hotel in the city for several days before finding a car that took him across the border into Egypt and on to safety.

He then joined Evian, but has only fully emerged this season, scoring 13 Ligue 1 goals including a remarkable strike from inside his own half against Nice recently.

In contrast to Evian, Bordeaux have a long and proud history, and have won the French Cup three times, although the last of those triumphs came in 1987.

Move to Saturday

Les Girondins finished seventh in an underwhelming league campaign, so winning the French Cup and qualifying for next season’s Europa League is essential.

“We have an experienced team, and some have already played at the Stade de France,” said Bordeaux coach Francis Gillot.

“We just need to make sure we produce our best on the pitch. If we do that then I think that will be enough. We absolutely have to win this final.”

Bordeaux has struggled for goals this season but will look to Cheick Diabate for inspiration, with the giant Malian having netted eight times in his last eight games.

He scored both goals when Bordeaux beat Evian 2-1 at home on the final day of the league season last week.

The Friday evening kick-off for the final means there is unlikely to be a full house at the 80,000-capacity Stade de France.

The game is usually staged on a Saturday but had to be moved to avoid a clash with the final of French rugby’s Top 14 season between Toulon and Castres.

“Playing on a Friday is rubbish. It’s an aberration. People work on a Friday,” said an unhappy Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud.