FC Lorient Reconnects with Its Glorious Past
As the old saying goes, ‘watch out for the underdogs!’. This valuable lesson was solidly proven on the last day—bathed in sunshine and accompanied by a steady breeze—where the CFC Academy from Senegal and En Avant de Guingamp had to learn it the hard way. Surprisingly, right from the start of the competition, FC Lorient and Sporting Club de Braga flew under the radar, yet they emerged as the finalists in this 39th edition, with the Breton team securing victory through a penalty shootout.
Senegal loses to Braga in dramatic 18th penalty kick
En Avant de Guingamp had high hopes of reaching their fifth final. They had triumphed over Valenciennes, Académie CFC, and Kansas City in the group stage, and then defeated KAS Eupen in the quarter-finals with a 4-3 penalty shootout victory. However, their dreams were shattered in a tough semi-final against Lorient, with two red cards shown to the Costarmoricans and one to Lorient, resulting in a 2-0 defeat.
In the other semi-final, the Senegalese team faced confusion as they were defeated by Sporting Braga in a penalty shootout. The match went all the way to the 18th attempt before a decision was made. This marked the end of the young Africans’ dream, despite their impressive performance throughout the tournament, captivating the crowd at the Trémeur stadium with their collective mastery, bursts of energy, and the talent of standout players like No.10 Samba Diop, who was voted the tournament’s best player, as well as wingers Seck and Traoré, and centre-forward Ndaye. However, all of these qualities were overshadowed by the Portuguese team, who seemed to have thoroughly studied their opponents.
FC Lorient reconnects with its glorious past in U17
This U17 final didn’t live up to the standards set by previous years, a far cry from the thrilling 2022 final between RC Lens and Stade Brestois. Both teams found themselves tactically stifled, resulting in a midfield-dominated match. SC Braga capitalized on their ability to control the field, while FC Lorient’s attacking efforts fell short. The Merlus team struggled against the vigilant Portuguese defense and their own lack of precision in the face of strong winds blowing in from la Mer d’Iroise.
Consequently, the fate of a match that lacked goal-scoring opportunities was decided by penalties. In this aspect, FC Lorient demonstrated slightly better accuracy than their opponents, emerging victorious with a 5-4 score. This victory adds to the illustrious history of the Morbihan club, who had previously triumphed here in 2005, 2007, and 2008.
In this exceptional 2023 edition, the shootout prevailed once again to determine the 5th and 6th places between closely-matched teams. Angers secured the 5th spot, while Stade Brestois settled for the 6th position. The Académie Mohamed VI, despite struggling against Eupen and receiving three red cards, claimed the 7th place.
Valenciennes had to surrender the 9th place to Finistère Selection, while Kansas City and Beirut Academy valiantly battled in the tournament, securing the last two spots. Despite the tough competition, they showcased their determination and resilience throughout the event.
Le Stade Brestois emerges as U15 champions
Nonetheless, Le Stade Brestois didn’t return empty-handed from Plougonvelin. They triumphed in the U15 category, defeating Vannes in a tight final (1-0) following a similar scoreline victory against Lorient in the semi-finals. The success of the Morbihan team was attributed to two factors: securing a spot in the quarter-finals based on average age and executing a flawless penalty shootout (5-4) against Guingamp in the semi-finals.