Youssouf Fofana has gone from serving pizzas to delivering crosses within the FIFA World Cup.
Dropped in 2015 at age 14 from Clairefontaine, France’s nationwide coaching middle, his future in soccer appeared at an finish. So he went to work for a pizzeria.
“That was the best way to earn money and also to follow my dreams,” the 23-year-old midfielder mentioned on Thursday, two days earlier than France meets England in a World Cup quarterfinal.
Fofana made his French nationwide workforce debut in September and was picked by coach Didier Deschamps for the 26-man workforce that’s defending Les Bleus’ World Cup title.
He entered as a second-half sub within the group stage wins over Australia and Denmark, began within the 1-0 loss to Tunisia, and performed the final 25 minutes of the spherical of 16 victory over Poland.
Fairly the turnaround for a participant who wanted two years to discover a skilled membership. He performed for Drancy, an novice aspect in Paris’ northeast suburbs earlier than signing with Strasbourg’s youth academy in 2017.
“I had my doubts, and you have to know how to move forward,” he mentioned by way of an interpreter.
He made his Ligue 1 debut towards Lyon on August 24, 2018, moved to Monaco in January 2020 and reached the Europa League together with his new membership in 2021-22 and the present season.
France, searching for its third World Cup title, would advance to a semifinal towards Portugal or Morocco. The opposite aspect of the bracket can have the Argentina-Netherlands winner play Brazil or Croatia.
Les Blues are led by Kylian Mbappé, who leads the World Cup with 5 objectives. England right-back Kyle Walker has confronted Mbappé and Paris Saint-Germain whereas enjoying for Manchester Metropolis within the Champions League and mentioned on Wednesday, “We take respect that he is a good player in good form at the minute, but I am not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to go and score.”
Fofana appeared amused by that.
“Hats off to him.” Fofana mentioned. “If he can stop Kylian, good for him. But there’s 19 other teams in the French league that are waiting for the answer of how to stop Kylian, and the truth is on the pitch.”
Fofana was in a jovial temper when discussing preparations. Requested concerning the state of mind within the dressing room earlier than World Cup kickoffs, he responded, “The atmosphere is tense, tense, tense.”
“No, I’m joking,” he went on. “We can wear headphones, so if we don’t like the chosen music for the group, then we can listen to our own music.”
CLASS OF ‘98
Defender Dayot Upamecano said he has spoken with Marcel Desailly, a defender on France’s 1998 world champion workforce.
“He’s given me some advice and I should continue doing what I’m doing,” Upamecano mentioned by way of an interpreter. “It’s a real pleasure to be able to talk to someone like that. He was a winner. He was a warrior, a real example for the French.”