With France’s place in the knockout stages already secured, Konate was one of several players given the chance to impress by Deschamps on Wednesday. While the majority of France’s periphery players failed to make an impression in the shocking 1-0 loss to Tunisia, Konate stood out.
After being drafted in, the highly-rated 23-year-old delivered a spectacular performance, making more than ten tackles throughout the encounter – a feat that no one else has gone close to emulating in Qatar.
Konate received a lot of praise after the game, which was clouded by controversy as a late goal by Antoine Griezmann was ruled out by VAR. And, while Konate’s performance will delight Liverpool fans after an injury-plagued season at Anfield, it has the potential to cause Deschamps some major selection headaches in the future.
The Reds center-half started France’s World Cup opener before being replaced in the victory over Denmark, but Konate should now be firmly in Deschamps’ plans ahead of Sunday’s Round of 16 clashes with Poland – and that could spell trouble for Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano, who had started both of France’s previous matches.
Raphael Varane’s place in the lineup at Manchester United could possibly be jeopardized as a result of Konate’s performance against Tunisia.
Arsenal defender William Saliba, who came off the bench, was also expected to push for a starting spot at the tournament after a stellar start to the Premier League season.
While Kounate and Saliba are pushing for starts, Deschamps could still decide to stick with the pairing of Upamecano and Varane for Sunday‘s clash – a decision that would leave both Premier League stars disappointed.
Despite his standout performance, Konate pulled no punches after the disappointing result. He refuted the suggestion, however, that France had paid the price for making too many changes for the final match of the group stage.
He did, however, make it obvious that France would be out to make amends when they meet Poland in the World Cup quarter-finals this weekend.
“I despise losing,” Konate admitted after the game on Wednesday. “There will be no favors this weekend; it will be a match and that’s all.” I can’t argue there were too many changes – if we’re still here, we can’t use that as an excuse.
“We weren’t at the appropriate level because we were too wasteful.” We need to focus on the next game, come together, and forget about this minor blunder. It will be a challenging contest, whether it is against Mexico, Argentina, or anybody.”