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Sixth-division village club set to take on PSG superstars in French Cup

Paris Saint-Germain will be brought back down to earth following a lucrative friendly against Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia this week as they play a French Cup tie against an amateur village team from France’s regional sixth tier on Monday.

It may feel like a tired cliche to talk about the supposed magic of the Cup, but try telling that to US Pays de Cassel as they get to take on Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Neymar and all the rest.

Their journey to reach the last 32 of the national knockout competition has in itself been remarkable.

The club represents a handful of villages in the Flanders countryside, half an hour inland from the port of Dunkirk in France’s far north.

Cassel, a few kilometres from the Belgian border, is perhaps best known in France for being voted the country’s favourite village in a popular television show in 2018.

The team had initially been handed a bye to this stage after being drawn in the last round against two clubs who were then kicked out of the competition.

Reims Sainte-Anne and Wasquehal, both from slightly higher up the league ladder, were disqualified after their tie in November was abandoned following a mass brawl which led to one of the coaches being taken to hospital.

But organisers then changed their minds, Wasquehal beat Reims Sainte-Anne on penalties when the tie was replayed, and they advanced to play Pays de Cassel last weekend.

Pays de Cassel duly won in a shoot-out to take the significant scalp of a club from two tiers higher up.


Their reward is a meeting with the mighty PSG, the Ligue 1 leaders and winners of the French Cup more times than anyone else.

“It is a source of enormous joy for my young players and for the whole of Flanders. This match is historic,” the Pays de Cassel president, Jean-Jacques Vaesken, told Le Parisien.

Unsurprisingly, they were not able to host the tie at their own ground and so the match will be played an hour away in Lens, home of the club currently sitting second in Ligue 1, just behind PSG.

Incredibly, 30,000 tickets were snapped up in nine hours and so there is likely to be a full house at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, where PSG lost to Lens in Ligue 1 earlier this month.

The financial windfall means it is set to be a life-changing occasion for the club, as well as an unforgettable night for the players.

“We are going to try to at least hold them until half-time or score a goal. I would be amazed, but we will try and it would be magnificent,” Vaesken added.

Underlining the difference between the teams is the fact the game has been put back to Monday after PSG’s squad travelled to Doha this week for 24 hours to please their Qatari owners.

“We feel at home in Qatar. It’s good to change our routine a bit,” insisted the captain, Marquinhos, ignoring the obvious concerns about undertaking such a trip in the middle of the season.

They then flew to Riyadh for Thursday’s friendly against a select side made up of players from Saudi rivals Al Nassr and Al Hilal and featuring Ronaldo –- a match for which PSG are set to pocket a fee of around 10 million euros ($10.8m), sources indicated.

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