AS Nancy-Lorraine have become the first French side to reach the last 32 of the 2006/07 UEFA Cup after a comprehensive 3-0 home victory against Feyenoord last night.
It means a spring campaign in Europe for the first time in the club's history - a remarkable feat in itself, but all the more so given that Ligue 1's more fancied teams RC Lens, Paris Saint-Germain FC and AJ Auxerre are in danger of missing out on the knockout stage. Nancy coach Pablo Correa has put their Group E success, which has also included a 2-1 win against Wisła Kraków and 2-2 draw at FC Basel 1893, down to the togetherness in the squad.
"Honestly, I don't think there are limits to what my side can achieve," said Correa, who added of the Feyenoord result that it was a well-deserved "victory over a big name, if not a top team. We know teams will be less surprised by us the further we go in Europe." The win came courtesy of a Sébastien Puygrenier strike, an André Bahia own goal and Monsef Zerka's penalty, while Olivier Sorin saved a late Pierre van Hooijdonk spot-kick.
Nancy defender Michaël Chrétien agreed that "unity" has been key to Nancy's progress, with last season's French League Cup triumph being followed by a rise to fifth place in France this time around. "There is a strong feeling of unity," he said. "We have been together for a couple of seasons and we love to give our all for each other and work as a team to get the result." If Nancy are to advance further in the competition, though, they will have to improve their away form. They have failed to win away from the Marcel Picot stadium in both the UEFA Cup and Ligue 1 this term.
Moreover, they will need at least a point at Blackburn Rovers FC on 13 December if they are to top Group E, and once again the side with a modest budget but unlimited enthusiasm will be considered underdogs. Nancy may also hope for a less eventful evening than last night when disturbances among the visiting support led to the final stages of the game being played before empty stands.
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