© © Val Wagner / RTL
After some teams had to play a midweek fixture to make up for postponed games from late October due to insufficient weather conditions, the field of the Round of 16 in Luxembourg’s cup competition is finally confirmed.
Although the draw will only follow later with no further rounds to be played in the calendar year 2023, the names of the biggest favourites to be present at the Stade de Luxembourg for the final are already starting to take shape.
F91 Dudelange became the first clear contenders to get eliminated this season, after a well-fought tie ended in a 0-2 loss against the current title holders, FC Differdange. The majority of the cup finals in the country since the turn of century has involved either Dudelange (13 times) or FCD (6 times), with three finals where both clubs qualified since 2010.
In light of the above, both clubs could feel cruel and unlucky to be facing each other as early as the round of 32. Eventually, Differdange made a step towards two trophies in a row, after success signing Jorginho opened the scoring 5 minutes in, before Moussa Suso ended the game as a contest 10 minutes from the end.
Having defeated one of the main rivals, FCD supporters definitely have reasons to feel encouraged about their team going all the way yet again. Meanwhile, F91’s early exit was hardly expected before the draw, but going out to one of the most dominant teams (Differdange are still unbeaten in all domestic games in 2023/24) in such an unlucky fashion is always forgivable.
Another one of the heavyweights, Swift Hesperange, were put to the test and made to work hard for any chance of going through in Merl, playing against Red Star Merl-Belair of the third division.
Merl were leading by two goals before the half-time break, but Hesper’s former Morocco international striker Rachid Alioui was able to pull one back and halve the embarrassment and panic in the dressing room as the teams disappeared in the turnstiles.
The second half unfolded in an utterly painful fashion for all football romanticists. After being tempted with a totally unforeseeable “cupset” of this magnitude, the Merl defence’s stamina and concentration levels dropped a notch, and got ruthlessly exploited. Hesper were able to call upon players such as former Nürnberg and Luxembourg winger Maurice Deville off the bench, who duly restored parity in the 86th minute.
There was no way back to victory for Merl as the concept of a further thirty minutes to go beckoned. The already tired legs in the amateur team had to surrender to a last-gasp decider by Cédric Sacras, their manager later admitting they would not have been able to keep up with the intensity for the two halves of extra time had it become reality.
For those who would have preferred to watch lower-division clubs writing history and punching above their weight, though, luckily Merl are not the only choice.
FF Norden 02 Weiswampach/Hupperdange was formed in 2002 after a merger between Les Montagnards Weiswampach and Blo-Giel Hupperdange. Over its young history, the team has fought their way from the fifth division to a sixth place in the second-tier at some point, but are currently languishing in the third level of the Luxembourgish football pyramid, the same as the aforementioned Merl.
Despite achieving creditable heights in the league system, their best results in the cup had been two appearances in the round of 32, losing 0-4 to Differdange and 0-3 on US Esch on those two occasions. This time, they are confirmed to be going even further – and thus writing history -, having overcome several stronger-quality sides, visibly flourishing in their underdog role.
In the first round, they recorded a 4-1 win after extra time against fellow amateurs Wincrange. An important win by all measures, but not anything to suggest this would be a team marching straight into
the last 16. That part was instead addressed with consecutive 1-0 victories at home to one of the National Division’s most dangerous attacks in Victoria Rosport and solid Ehrenpromotion outfit Lorentzweiler.
Besides nine teams from the BGL Ligue and six from the Ehrenpromotion, Norden are the only team outside of the top two leagues to make it this far. With a lucky draw, though – and there will be no seedings involved – they might as well extend their record even further.
Making the most of your one chance, and getting as far as possible while you have the opportunity is what these surprise packages of domestic cups’ later rounds are typically going for. It was no different last year, when a non-BGL Ligue team made a final appearance for the first time for decades.
Marisca Mersch was the team having all the momentum, sending shockwaves through the country with one surprise victory after another. Soon enough, most first-division teams were surpassed and the only test awaiting them was beating the mighty Differdange at the national stadium.
Instead, while Marisca were absolutely in the game for long periods, luck betrayed them and they ended up highly respectable silver medals in both league and cup competitions in 2022/23. Now, having fallen at the last hurdle, Marisca were eager to put it right and put on another show this season, perhaps replicating or at least coming close to repeating the ominous fairytale run.
What transpired was the polar opposite. The blue-and-yellow team somehow never quite got a foothold in their game last week, and were swept aside with ease by Rumelange. After a silly second yellow card from defender Landry Meyong on the verge of half-time with the score standing at 1-0, the Mersch defence would never find a way to soften the blow, and Rumelange ran riot after smelling blood.
Across the pitches
Jeunesse Esch, Progrès Niederkorn, US Mondorf, Mondercange and Racing Union Luxembourg all ran out victorious in matches against lower-level opposition. The highest scoreline was Mondorf’s 8-1 thumping of Erpeldange.
Two games went to extra time: Yellow Boys Weiler netted twice to dump out Grevenmacher by a score of 4-2, while Jeunesse Canach surprisingly defeated a 10-man Wiltz 71, scoring four times. Wiltz and Luxembourg goalkeeper Ralph Schon was curiously sent off for arguing with match officials, and then hitting the advertising hoardings with the ball in frustration.
Elsewhere, UNA Strassen and Schifflange ’95 both recorded wins against struggling top-tier teams Fola Esch and Käerjéng respectively. Alisontia Steinsel and SC Bettembourg knocked out fellow second-division rivals Etzella Ettelbrück and Rodange 91. The only other club to provide a tangible upset in this round was US Hostert, whose victims were Union Titus Pétange, playing a division above USH since the Greens’ relegation last season.
The Round of 16 ties will take place once the league has resumed after its lengthy winter break. Supposing no postponements will be required, the games are set to be played on April 3, 2024.