PARIS: Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic hopes his side can reach the final of the French Cup as a tribute to former teammate Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared in the English Channel last month.
The 28-year-old Argentine striker was onboard a light aircraft taking him to his new Premier League team Cardiff City when it disappeared near the British island of Guernsey on Jan 21.
British crash investigators on Tuesday launched an underwater operation to recover a body from the wreckage of the plane, which was carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.
Nantes progressed to the quarter-finals a few hours later with a 2-0 win at home to Toulouse after goals by Kalifa Coulibaly and Anthony Limbombe.
“In two games we could be in the final. If the draw is kind to us why not go to the final? It would be a gift to pay tribute (to Sala),” Halilhodzic said.
The Bosnian fought back tears last week when Nantes paid an emotional tribute to Sala at the Stade de la Beaujoire in the club’s first match since his disappearance.
“We’re coming back slowly, after Saint-Etienne and Sannois-Saint-Gratien,” Halilhodzic added.
“It’s almost a second beginning. We’re still quite fragile but each win is going to boost our mental strength and we’re going to continue on this path.”
Holders and record 12-time champions Paris Saint-Germain take on third-tier Villefranche on Wednesday, while Lyon visit Guingamp — winners in 2009 and 2014 — on Thursday.