Youssouf Fofana went from bringing pizzas to customers to kicking goals in the World Cup.
When he was expelled from France’s national training facility Clairefontaine in 2015 at the age of 14, his soccer career appeared to be over. He then started working for a pizzeria.
Two days before France takes on England in a World Cup quarterfinal, the 23-year-old midfielder said on Thursday, “That was the best way to earn money and also to follow my dreams.”
In September, Fofana made his debut for France, and Didier Deschamps chose him to play for the 26-man squad that is defending the World Cup championship.
He started the 1-0 loss to Tunisia and came on as a substitute in the group stage victories over Australia and Denmark. He also played the final 25 minutes of the round of 16 victories over Poland.
Really impressive progress for a player who took two years to find a professional team. Before joining Strasbourg’s youth academy in 2017, he played for Drancy, an amateur team in the northeast suburbs of Paris.
Through an interpreter, he said, “I had my doubts, and you have to know how to move forward.”
He made his Ligue 1 debut on August 24, 2018, against Lyon. He then moved to Monaco in January 2020, where he helped his new team win the Europa League in 2021–22 and the current campaign.
France would move on to a semifinal matchup with Portugal or Morocco in search of a third World Cup victory. The winner of Argentina vs. Netherlands will play either Brazil or Croatia on the other side of the bracket.
Kylian Mbappé, who has five goals in the World Cup, is the captain of Les Blues. While representing Manchester City in the Champions League, England right-back Kyle Walker faced Mbappé and Paris Saint-Germain. On Wednesday, Walker said, “We take respect that he is a good player in good form at the moment, but I am not going to roll out the red carpet for him and tell him to go and score.”
That seemed to make Fofana laugh.
“Well done, sir.” said Fofana. “Well done to him if he can fend off Kylian. But the truth is on the field, and there are 19 other teams in the French league waiting for the solution to how to stop Kylian.”
When talking about the plans, Fofana was laughing. When asked how the locker room was feeling before World Cup games, he said, “The atmosphere is tense, tense, tense.”
No, he continued, “I’m kidding. If we don’t like the music that has been selected for the group, we can listen to our own music because we have headphones on.
Dayot Upamecano, a defender, claimed to have spoken with Marcel Desailly, another defender who played for France’s 1998 world champion squad.
Through an interpreter, Upamecano said, “He gave me some advice and I should keep doing what I’m doing.” “Being able to communicate with someone of that caliber is a real pleasure. He was successful. He set a great example for the French as a warrior.”