While the entire French Republic was still immersing themselves in the news that Neymar Santos Jr. was now a member of the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, a number of its domestic rivals were going through the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. One of the clubs, Jocelyn Gourvennec’s FC Girondins de Bordeaux, was forced to make an early exit and as a result, their gaffer is in the hot seat heading into the start of the new Ligue 1 season.
Lucien Favre’s OGC Nice are guaranteed a spot in a European competition group stage. But with PSG and Leonardo Jardim’s AS Monaco already in the group stage, they want in to give this competition a sizable share of French representation. In the third qualifying round, Nice were placed among the unseeded teams in the League Route, which include Steaua Bucharest, Young Boys Bern, AEK Athens and Istanbul Basaksehir. As luck would have it, they faced AFC Ajax Amsterdam, the UEFA Europa League runners-up from last year.
The first leg took place at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, with the match ending in a 1-1 draw on July 26. Mario Balotelli, a longtime triggerman for the Eagles, got Nice off the schneid in the 32nd minute but Donny Van de Beek leveled matters 49 minutes in. The second match, at the Amsterdam ArenA on Aug. 2 ended in another draw, but 2-2. Van de Beek (26′) and Davinson Sanchez (57′) scored for Ajax, but Nice fought back. They opened up the scoring with a third-minute strike from Armand Souquet but Vincent Marcel’s 79th minute strike saw Nice advance to the playoff round.
Bruno Genesio’s Olympique Lyonnais are already in the Group Stage in the UEFA Europa League but there could be one more team joining them, and that team is Rudi Garcia’s Olympique de Marseille, who were placed in Group 5 as the third-seeded team.
Bordeaux were also placed as a third seed, but in Group 3. Their opponent was Videoton FC, located in Székesfehérvár (pronounced seks-fair-bar), a small town of over 99,000 in central Hungary. The Girondins did not see one of the big upsets coming, if you don’t take into consideration PSV Eindhoven back-to-back 1-0 double dip defeat against Croatian side NK Osijek (also known as a 2-0 aggegate loss).
The Girondins won the first leg, a 2-1 win over Videoton, on July 27 at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. Younousse Sankhare scored a brace in the 18th and 33rd minutes. However, Marko Scepovic scored in the 23rd minute for Videoton and that away goal would prove vital. At the Pancho Arena in Felcsut on Aug. 3, Stopira’s goal in the fifth minute of first half injury time gave Videoton a 1-0 win and a 1-0 away goal victory after a 2-2 draw.
Marseille’s opponent were KV Oostende of Ostend, Belgium, and all the action took place in the first let at the Stade Velodrome on July 27. Valere Germain joined the team from AS Monaco and had a massive impact, scoring a hat trick in the second, 57th and 82nd minutes of play. Morgan Sanson also scored in the 32nd minute for OM. Oostende’s goals came from Sebastien Siani (28′) and Knowledge Musona (69′). The 4-2 scoreline would be the eventual aggregate scoreline as the second leg at the Versluys Arena on Aug. 3 ended in a frustrating scoreless draw.
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