May 5, 2018 / 12:01 PM / in 5 months

Les Herbiers plan Italian job on PSG in French Cup final

PARIS (Reuters) - When you don’t have money, you need good ideas. That could be the motto of Stephane Masala, the coach who took third division Les Herbiers to the French Cup final in which they face the mighty Paris St Germain on Tuesday.

With a budget of about 2 million euros (1.77 million pounds) compared to PSG’s 540 million, Les Herbiers barely stand a chance on paper against a team who have won the last three editions of the competition.

But Masala is an Italian football fan and he has been trying to instil that culture into a squad who knocked out two Ligue 2 sides on their way to the Stade de France showdown.

“My father, who is from Sardinia, had recorded all the Italy games from the 1982 World Cup,” the 41-year-old Masala, whose voicemail message is the Italian anthem “Fratelli d’Italia”, told Reuters.

“I got the virus early on, I have always had this Italian football mentality, where the tactical work is super important.”

Masala, who says he will probably not watch the World Cup next month because the Italy have failed to qualify, is a Juventus fan and he has a subscription to an Italian coaching website, allenatore.net.

“Every month I receive stuff from them it’s really helpful,” explained the man who was in Berlin to cheer for Italy in the World Cup final they won on penalties against France in 2006.

“I try to teach my players the importance of finding space.”

Masala’s main inspiration is Massimo De Paoli, the former Head of Youth Development at Brescia who developed the “Spaccare lo spazio” (break up the space) method.

Although Les Herbiers have been struggling in the National championship (third division), where they lie two points above the relegation zone, PSG have the utmost respect for them.

“It’s a final, it’s a title, it’s the Coupe de France. If they got to the final, they deserve it,” said PSG coach Unai Emery after his team beat Caen 3-1 to stay undefeated in domestic Cups for 41 games in a row since losing at Montpellier back in January, 2014.

“We need to not think about the result,” Masala said.

“And we will see how many minutes or how many seconds we can hold them off,” he laughed.

Asked how Les Herbiers could have a chance of a major upset, Masala said: “We will need to attack and to defend, although I’m pretty sure it will be more about defending for us.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond

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