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Season review: France

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 13.10CET
The 2011/12 French campaign was one for the romantics with Montpellier Hérault SC winning their first Ligue 1 title and amateur third-tier outfit US Quevilly reaching the cup final.
by Sébastian Blanchard & Christian Châtelet
Season review: France
Top scorer Olivier Giroud (centre) leads Montpellier's celebrations ©AFP/Getty Images

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Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 13.10CET

Season review: France

The 2011/12 French campaign was one for the romantics with Montpellier Hérault SC winning their first Ligue 1 title and amateur third-tier outfit US Quevilly reaching the cup final.

For the first time in their history, Montpellier Hérault SC ended a season as Ligue 1 champions after a fantastic campaign. Their race for the title with Paris Saint-Germain FC ran up until the final weekend but René Girard's young team held their nerve and warrant great credit for a famous achievement.

This title gives colour to our football and shows that we must not fear anyone, that money is not everything
Montpellier coach René Girard

Champions: Montpellier Hérault SC
With 82 points, Montpellier finished 2011/12 on top of the tree, three points ahead of big-spending PSG. A youthful Montpellier side had not won a major honour for 22 years and were rank outsiders but Girard's men proved solid in defence and lethal up front, with Olivier Giroud finishing as the league's 21-goal leading scorer alongside PSG's Nenê.

Cup final: Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 US Quevilly
Lisandro López hit the goal at the Stade de France on 28 April that ended Quevilly's dream of becoming the first amateur team to lift the French Cup since the introduction of professionalism in 1932. The Argentinian's conversion of Alexandre Lacazette's cross gave Lyon coach Rémi Garde something to cheer in his first full season in charge.

European places*
Montpellier Hérault SC – UEFA Champions League, group stage
Paris Saint-Germain FC – UEFA Champions League, group stage
LOSC Lille Métropole – UEFA Champions League, play-off
Olympique Lyonnais – UEFA Europa League, group stage
FC Girondins de Bordeaux – UEFA Europa League, play-off
Olympique de Marseille – UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Eden Hazard (LOSC Lille Métropole)
On the back of inspiring Lille to a historic double in 2010/11, the 21-year-old Belgian forward remained on top of his game as Les Dogues ended the campaign third. Scoring 20 times – and creating more Ligue 1 goals than any other Lille player – he was named player of the season for the second year running.

One to watch: Younès Belhanda (Montpellier Hérault SC)
A symbol of the Montpellier success story this season, the French-born Morocco striker came of age in 2011/12. A product of Montpellier's youth system, Belhanda scored 12 league goals and his understanding with Giroud was a pivotal feature of their side's play. Voted young player of the year by his Ligue 1 peers, the 22-year-old also earned the goal of the season prize for his spectacular volley against Marseille on 11 April.

Surprise package: US Quevilly
The French Cup was made memorable by Quevilly and their extraordinary journey to the final, before Lisandro ended the fairy tale. The first amateur side since 2000 to make it so far, the Normandy outfit saw off Marseille (3-2) and Stade Rennais FC (2-1) to reach Paris. "The feeling I'll keep forever from the final will be the fans in this stadium," said Quevilly coach Régis Brouard. "It was magical."

Leading scorers: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier Hérault SC), Nenê (Paris Saint-Germain FC) 21

Relegated: AJ Auxerre, Dijon FCO, SM Caen

Promoted: SC Bastia, Stade de Reims, ES Troyes AC

Number: 50
The number of points earned by Montpellier at home from 19 games – the highest tally since AS Monaco FC in 1992/93.

Quote
"This title gives colour to our football and shows that we must not fear anyone, that money is not everything. We are a club of friends with young players coming through our ranks. In the end, the mix wasn't bad. We have produced great football and there has been a good balance to the team. I'm a bit stunned. This is the best present I could think of for our president."
Montpellier coach Girard after the 2-1 win at Auxerre that sealed the title.

Last updated: 10/07/12 13.54CET

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