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French Champs Play Under Radar in Montreal

On Saturday, Bordeaux, the champion of France's Ligue 1, defeated Ligue 2 champ Guingamp 2-0 to take the French Champions Trophy, the first of the league's official competitions held outside France. Played in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, the game was hosted by the United Soccer League's Montreal Impact, which will play a friendly against Bordeaux at the adjacent Stade Saputo on Tuesday.

Unlike the friendlies and preseason tournaments underway in the USA, the Champions Trophy holds meaning back in France. It serves as the symbolic opening of the French season, which begins the second week in August. In the game, Bordeaux's Argentine striker Fernando Cavenaghi scored 38 minutes into the match and Fernando, a midfielder from Brazil, slotted home a free kick by Yoann Gourcuff toward the end of regular time.

French teams have not established the same branding power in North America as teams from Italy, Spain, England, and Germany. French teams do not typically venture to North America for preseason friendlies or training camps. But playing a championship game in French-speaking Montreal provided an ideal venue to test the pull of French teams while supporting soccer in the Quebec area. Joey Saputo, the president of the Impact, hoped to surpass the top attendance (30,500) of previous Champions Trophy games, and succeeded. The game drew 34,000 to watch the teams play on artificial turf.

 

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