Marseille’s players wait during the penalty shoutout of the French Cup quarter final football match between Olympique de Marseille and Annecy at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, southern France, on March 1, 2023. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)
Paris: Marseille’s hopes of a long-awaited trophy in the soccer-mad seaport are sinking.
A crushing 3-0 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain last weekend allowed their bitter rival to move eight points clear at the top of the French league.
That loss hurt but it wasn’t entirely surprising, considering PSG’s attack is led by World Cup stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé.
But what followed on Wednesday was humiliating as Marseille was eliminated from the French Cup in a quarterfinals loss to second-tier minnow Annecy.
Annecy has the second-smallest budget in the second division and had never reached the cup semifinals before, while Marseille had become the clear tournament favorite after knocking out PSG in the previous round.
“It’s massively disappointing, very sad,” Marseille coach Igor Tudor said after the Annecy defeat. “We’ve gone out of a competition where we eliminated PSG and Rennes, it’s just folly.”
Marseille midfielder Mattéo Guendouzi went as far as calling the performance “professional misconduct” and said there were no excuses.
“There’s more than disappointment, there’s anger,” said Guendouzi, who played for France at the World Cup last year. “We’re going to have to face up to it.”
Things were taking on a much different complexion last week.
Marseille was riding high with one defeat in 14 matches heading into last Sunday’s league game against PSG, raising hopes in the southern seaport that this could be Marseille’s year to topple its rival on two fronts.
The proud club is the only French one to win the Champions League, back in 1993, but hasn’t won the French league since 2010 and the last of its 10 French Cups was in 1989.
The hype was building before facing PSG and a victory at Stade Velodrome would have brought second-place Marseille within two points of PSG in the title race.
Now, after two soul-sapping home defeats in succession, it seems the wait for a trophy will drag on unless PSG collapses.
So instead of thinking ahead, Tudor’s team is looking over its shoulder in the race for second place and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.
With 13 games remaining, Marseille is two points ahead of both Monaco and Lens and six points ahead of fifth-place Rennes.
Marseille travels to Brittany on Sunday night to play Rennes, which has won its past two league games.
Monaco is at 19th-place Troyes on Sunday and Lens hosts sixth-place Lille in their northern derby on Saturday, when PSG also hosts French Cup winner Nantes at Parc des Princes.
The World Cup top scorer Mbappé needs one goal to move into outright first place as PSG’s all-time leading scorer. He is tied on 200 with Edinson Cavani.
Mbappé tops the scoring charts with 17 goals while the World Cup winner Messi has 12 to go with his league-leading 12 assists.
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