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Moving Up — Meet The Three Promoted Teams In Ligue 1 For '22-23 Season

On the surface, France’s promotions and relegations from this season may appear straightforward. The bottom three in Ligue 1 went down, and the top three in Ligue 2 went up. However, what hides behind the results is a promotion playoff structure that combines elements from the Bundesliga and Serie A to create a fascinating multi-stage playoff. Ligue 1 welcomes three new challengers, so let’s take a look at the stories of how they got to this point and how they hope to continue their rebounds.

Newly Promoted Ligue 1 Teams 2022-23

Toulouse FC

What happens when you put two of the best players in the league on the same team? For Toulouse FC, that question was a reality this season. With the league’s top goal scorer in Rhys Healey as well as the Ligue 2 player of the season, Branco van den Broomen, Les Pitchouns scored goals for fun, finishing the season with 82 goals, or 2.16 goals per game. Toulouse held first place in the league for 30 weeks of the 38-week season and yet only won the division by four points. 

With a strong side already, only small adjustments are necessary, and Toulouse has done that well by picking up Zakaria Aboukhlal, a 22-year-old winger from AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie. Moves like these illustrate exactly why manager Phillippe Montanier was named Ligue 2 coach of the year this season. Excellent preparation off the field puts the team in the best possible position for success once they step on it. Montanier is preparing Toulouse to not just make it to Ligue 1, but to stay there for the foreseeable future. Toulouse begins its campaign on Aug. 7, by hosting OGC Nice.

AC Ajaccio

They say defense wins championships, but unfortunately for AC Ajaccio, that didn’t quite turn out to be true. This season, Ajaccio conceded just 19 goals in a 38-game campaign, comfortably the lowest in the league, but was undone by its own poor attacking output. For any team seeking promotion, scoring just 39 goals would normally be a nightmare, but for Ajaccio, it got the club promoted. This remarkable defensive record and club success did not go unnoticed as Benjamin Leroy was named goalkeeper of the season. 

As the club looks to stay up in Ligue 1, smart deals are essential, but what Ajaccio has decided to do is sign a pair of 35-year-olds. Forward Romain Hamouma from Saint Ettiene and midfielder Thomas Mangani from Angers SCO were both signed on free transfers. Swiss midfielder Kevin Spadanuda signed for the club from FC Aarau as well, but a figure has not been announced. Defensively, the team is about as set as possible, but goals win games and a side that cannot score consistently will struggle to stay in the first division. Ajaccio opens its season on Aug. 7 against Olympique Lyon away from home.

AJ Auxerre

The promotion playoffs: a nerve-wracking thought for players and fans alike. One mistake and the entire season is thrown away. In France, this is taken to the extreme. After the Ligue 2 season ends, the teams that finished fourth and fifth play a one-leg tie to decide who moves on to the next round. The winner then goes on to play the team that finished in third place, again in a one-leg tie. Finally, the winner of that match then plays a two-legged tie against the team that finished 18th in Ligue 1. The winner of that tie is rewarded with a place in Ligue 1 for the following season. Complicated? Yes. Fascinating? Absolutely.

Upon finishing third in Ligue 2, Auxerre automatically qualified for the second round of the playoffs where it faced FC Sochaux. Tied 0-0 after extra time, Auxerre stepped up and calmly dispatched all of its spot kicks while Sochaux had its third attempt saved by goalkeeper Donovan Léon, sending Auxerre to the final. There, it faced French footballing royalty in the form of Saint-Ètienne. Winner of a record 10 Ligue 1 titles, Saint-Ètienne was in the playoff after a truly abysmal season. Once again, after extra time the teams were tied and penalties were required. Saint-Ètienne’s first penalty was saved by Donovan Léon and like clockwork all five penalty takers for Auxerre converted from the spot, earning the club a spot in Ligue 1 for the first time since 2012. 

Defensively, signing center-back Denys Bain from Stade Brestois and goalkeeper Benoît Costil from Bordeaux, both on free transfers, should be a step in the right direction, but it may not be enough. Auxerre could be in for a difficult campaign ahead as it has failed to secure any attacking firepower. Star forward Gaëtan Charbonnier may be able to be the team’s main target, but he should not be the only one it has. Admittedly average both offensively and defensively, the club should look to further strengthen its roster after the season kicks off on Aug. 7 when Auxerre travels to take on LOSC Lille away from home.

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