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Boudebouz nets late winner as St-Etienne reach French Cup final

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PARIS — Substitute Ryad Boudebouz scored the winner deep into injury time as Saint-Etienne stunned title holder Rennes 2-1 to reach the French Cup final on Thursday.

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Nearing the end of four minutes of injury time, the ball reached Boudebouz on the edge of the penalty area and he confidently stroked it into the bottom right corner.

Saint-Etienne has won the French Cup six times but not since 1977. Les Verts will now face 12-time champion Paris Saint-Germain in the final on April 25.

Rennes upset PSG in the final last year after coming from 2-0 down. The Brittany side looked in control when M’Baye Niang scored a penalty in the 33rd.

But defender Timothee Kolodziejczak equalized for the home side just before the break.

In Wednesday’s semifinal, Kylian Mbappe scored a hat trick as PSG won 5-1 at Lyon to reach its sixth straight final.

USMNT-eligible Siebatcheu bags first goal of season for Stade Rennais

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We’ve talked a lot about the USMNT player pool in recent months given its deepest talent in, well, probably history.

The incredible depth overseas means we’ve barely mentioned a Ligue 1 center forward who’s made 20 appearances for Stade Rennais this season, a player on the outskirts of our Top 25.

Perhaps not for much longer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu has gained support amongst a following of USMNT supporters since disclosing an interest in playing for the Yanks.

The Stade Rennes man got his first goal of the season in stoppage time on Tuesday, bagging the third goal in a French Cup game against fourth-tier opposition ASM Belfort.

The American-born Siebatcheu has represented France at the U-21 level and can also represent Cameroon.

He turns 24 in April and has six Ligue 1 goals to go with five assists in 54 games at France’s top level. Siebatcheu recorded a dynamite Ligue 2 season with Stade Reims in 2017/18, scoring 17 goals with seven assists.

A lack of top-end finishing beyond Jozy Altidore has USMNT fans thirsty for better center forward production while waiting for Josh Sargent and Tim Weah to develop at their clubs.

If the player’s attitude is good, there is no reason to avoid recruiting Siebatcheu.

Sixth-tier French side shocks Ligue 1’s Angers

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The story in Thursday’s Le Parisien was why only 250 tickets had been sold to sixth-tier side Viry-Chatillon’s hosting of Ligue 1 side Angers in the Coupe de France.

The story on match day was much, much bigger.

[ REPORT: Bayern to buy U.S. prospect ]

There will not be a rematch in the Coupe de France final, as Angers has been shocked by ES Viry-Chatillon.

It’s okay if you say, “Who?” (The first time, we’re all forgiven). After all, their “achievements” page on Transfermarkt is empty, though Thierry Henry did play there from ages 13-15.

The sixth-tier side from the suburbs of Paris, relegated last season from the Championnat National and boasting a Twitter following of 115, got an early second half goal from 22-year-old Mahamadou Sacko to send the 5,700 seat Stade Henri Longuet into a frenzy.

The tournament has been one of surprises in recent seasons, even at the final stages, where third-tier Les Herbiers became the ninth non-Ligue 1 side to make a final since 1996. That feat was achieved just five times between 1918-1995.

Respite for struggling Monaco with win in French League Cup

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PARIS (AP) Giulian Biancone’s goal gave Thierry Henry’s struggling Monaco side a 1-0 win over second-division side Lorient in the French League Cup on Wednesday.

Monaco is second from the bottom in the French league and desperately needed a boost after eight defeats and just two wins in 12 games since Henry took over in mid-October.

The former Arsenal star has had to deal with a huge injury crisis, forcing him to pick teenagers with little experience, including the 18-year-old Biancone.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Biancone, who made his debut at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last month, fired a shot inside the left post in the 70th minute to send Monaco into the quarterfinals.

Also Wednesday, Dimitri Payet and Adil Rami missed penalties as Marseille crashed out in a 4-2 shootout loss at home to Strasbourg.

Patrick Vieira’s Nice also lost on penalties at home, 3-1 to the bottom team in the French league, Guingamp.

Second-division Le Havre upset Nimes 2-1, Rennes enjoyed a 2-1 win over visiting Nantes, and Bordeaux won 1-0 at Dijon.

Paris Saint-Germain, which won the domestic treble last season, scraped through with a late goal in a 2-1 win at second division Orleans on Tuesday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

David takes on Goliath in French Cup final

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PARIS (AP) Les Herbiers players are experiencing a whole new world as they prepare for the biggest game of their careers.

In the buildup to Tuesday’s French Cup final against Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade de France, the third-division minnows have been invited to stay at Clairefontaine, the national football center known as “The Castle” where the country’s international players prepare for their matches.

[ MORE: Vermes signs SKC extension ]

“I believe I have been staying in (Antoine) Griezmann’s room,” said Les Herbiers captain Sebastien Flochon. “It’s a dream come true, we are preparing for that final in ideal conditions. With all the history attached to this castle, we could not hope for a better place.”

In terms of players, budget, salaries and glamour, PSG and Les Herbiers – a small town with a population of just 16,000 – could not be more different. While super-rich PSG sealed the French league title with five games to spare last month, Les Herbiers has yet to secure its place in France’s third tier for next season.

The club from the Vendee region in western France has a stadium holding just 5,000 fans and a budget of about two million euros. Last summer, PSG paid 220 million euros to buy Brazil superstar Neymar from Barcelona.

And while PSG boast the likes of Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe, the Les Herbiers players don’t make headlines and reportedly earn 2,500 euros monthly on average.

To sum it up, Les Herbiers’ challenge looks like a lost cause.

“Some people rate our chances of winning at about one percent,” Flochon said. “It would be the biggest upset of the last 20 years.”

The fourth third-division side to reach the final after Nimes, Amiens and Quevilly, Les Herbiers has already beaten second-division teams Lens and Auxerre.

“Our chances are minuscule, but we will give ourselves fully,” Flochon said. “It will be important not to step onto the pitch thinking it’s already over.”

Facing one of Europe’s best attacks, Les Herbiers will be counting on goalkeeper Matthieu Pichot, who has allowed just five goals in nine cup games.

“What we have already achieved is extraordinary, some top-flight players have never experienced that,” Pichot said. “They are going to attack from everywhere and it will be a very unbalanced contest. If we manage to make them doubt, even just for a while, this final will be successful.”

Les Herbiers coach Stephane Masala’s tactics could also play a big role. A big fan of Italian football and Juventus, the 41-year-old coach is respected for his knowledge of the game and a style based on short passes.

“I’m stunned by my players’ abilities to turn thing around,” Masala said his team came from 2-0 down to beat Laval 3-2 in the league on Friday. “Knowing they took on PSG four days later, they could have given up. But no, they found the moral and mental resources to win, I’m very proud to be their coach.”

Despite the huge gap between the sides, PSG coach Unai Emery is not taking anything for granted as his players seek a fourth straight French Cup.

“It’s a final, it’s a title, it’s the French Cup,” he said. “If they got to the final, they deserve it. The best way to show respect is to play to win.”

More AP French league coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1