Aurelien Tchouameni may perform most of his work in the background, but his spectacular opening goal in France’s quarterfinal triumph over England on Saturday illuminated the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 22-year-old then handed away the first penalty of the match at Al Bayt Stadium, which Harry Kane converted to tie the game for England, but France went on to win 2-1, and Tchouameni’s contribution for the defending champion has been critical considering the challenges they faced heading into the tournament.
The situation for coach Didier Deschamps and his team was bleak when they were hit by a slew of injuries, including the loss of their starting midfield combination of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Deschamps had to entirely restructure his squad, including ditching his back three experiment, but his choice to form a three-man midfield around Tchouameni — with Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann on each side of the Real Madrid star — has paid off.
When his teammates advance to join the attack, “he is there to cover us, fill in, plug holes, and win the ball back,” said Rabiot, who has also excelled during France’s march to the semifinals in Qatar, where they will meet Morocco on Wednesday.
Tchouameni, on the other hand, has come from nothing to play for his team in this World Cup.
The reoccurring fitness issues of Pogba and Kante — two mainstays of France’s successful campaign four years ago — allowed the muscular and agile midfielder to make his international debut in a qualifiers versus Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 2021.
Since then, he has appeared in all but one of his country’s matches, while also enjoying a successful club career.
Tchouameni’s strong achievements for Monaco earned him the Ligue 1 young player of the year award in 2021, followed by a transfer to Real Madrid in the previous close season for a sum of €100 million ($105 million) plus bonuses.
Kylian Mbappe, who had previously rejected down a transfer to Madrid, has asked Tchouameni if he would instead join Paris Saint-Germain.
However joining the European champions and now standing on the verge of a World Cup final appear to be all part of the plan for the midfielder, even if things have transpired a bit faster than he would have expected.
“I have goals, desires, and the passion for the game for the finest clubs, win trophies, and make an effect on my sport and position.” I want to be known for the good. “I want to make an impression,” he told L’Equipe last year.
“I don’t want to finish my career as an average player and be forgotten.”
Tchouameni, the son of a pharmacist, being born in the Normandy city of Rouen but raised in Bordeaux, where his career began.
Gustavo Poyet gave him his professional debut at Bordeaux in 2018, just just few weeks after witnessing France win the World Cup in Russia as a fan.
Tchouameni came up through the ranks in southern France alongside Jules Kounde, who is also on the Qatar side.
Despite this, he only made 40 top-flight appearances before signing for Monaco in January 2020 for a rumoured €20 million.
There, he formed an excellent connection with Youssouf Fofana, another current France team member who understands how vital Tchouameni is to the cause.
“Because football is intended to be a show, some people believe that if a player’s game isn’t about that, they’re simply there to fill up the figures. But in reality, he performs a fantastic job in the shadows,” added Fofana, who has played four times in Qatar and started one.
“He does so much running that it frees up the other two midfielders to get forward.”
Tchouameni will play a key role against Morocco as France seeks to maintain its championship and reach the final on Sunday.