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Tchouameni emerges as new leader of France midfield at World Cup

Although the France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni performs the most of his job in the background, his magnificent opening goal in Saturday’s quarterfinal victory over England lit up the World Cup.

Harry Kane equalized for England after the 22-year-old handed away the game’s first penalty at Al Bayt Stadium, but France ultimately prevailed 2-1, and Tchouameni’s contribution to the holders has been crucial given the challenges they faced before the competition.

After being hit by a wave of injuries, including the loss of both of their starting midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, coach Didier Deschamps’ team’s future looked bleak.

Deschamps had to entirely reorganize his squad, abandoning his experiment with a back three, but his choice to position Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann on either side of Tchouameni in a three-man midfield has paid off.

Rabiot has impressed on France’s journey to the semifinals in Qatar, where they will play Morocco on Wednesday, and he is now there to cover us, fill in, plug holes, and win the ball back, according to Rabiot.

Tchouameni, however, has hardly emerged from thin air to start for his nation at this World Cup.

Pogba and Kante, two of the heroes of France’s successful campaign four years ago, have ongoing fitness issues, which allowed the strong and athletic midfielder to make his debut in a qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina in September of last year.

He has since participated in all but one of his nation’s games while also seeing his club career soar.


Tchouameni’s exceptional play for Monaco earned him the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award in 2021, and in the following close season, he signed with Real Madrid for a transfer fee of 100 million euros ($105 million), including bonuses.

Kylian Mbappe had approached Tchouameni about joining Paris Saint-Germain after he himself had declined a move to the Spanish city.

But even though things may have occurred a little more quickly than he had intended, the midfielder with Cameroonian roots seems to have had a strategy for joining the European champions and now being on the verge of a World Cup final.

“I have objectives, dreams, the desire to play for the best clubs, to win titles, to impact my sport and my position. I want to be remembered for positive things. I want to leave my mark,” he told L’Equipe last year.

“I don’t want to end my career as an ordinary player and be forgotten about.”

Tchouameni, the son of a pharmacist, was raised close to Bordeaux while being born in the Normandy city of Rouen, where his career actually started.

Just a few weeks after cheering on France as they won the World Cup in Russia, Gustavo Poyet gave him his professional debut at Bordeaux in 2018.

Tchouameni and Jules Kounde, who was also on the Qatari side, progressed through the ranks in south-west France.

However, he only made a little under 40 appearances for elite teams before moving to Monaco in January 2020 for a rumoured 20 million euros.

There, he formed a strong friendship with Youssouf Fofana, another player on the current France team who is aware of how crucial Tchouameni is to the team’s goals.

Football is supposed to be a spectacle, so when a player’s game is not about that, some think they are just there to make up the numbers. But in fact he does a monumental job in the shadows,” said Fofana, who has appeared four times so far in Qatar, starting once.

“He does so much running and allows the other two midfielders to get forward without worrying.”

In order for France to advance to Sunday’s championship game against Morocco and defend their crown, Tchouameni will once again play a significant role.

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