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Jules Kounde has been given a more important role in the French national team after the injury to left-back Lucas Hernandez in the first game of the tournament against Australia.
Hernandez was stretchered off after damaging knee ligaments and will miss the remainder of the season. In that game, his brother Theo replaced him and soon after assisted for a goal. Theo was, as expected, given a starting lineup assignment for the game against Denmark, but somewhat unexpectedly, France manager Didier Deschamps decided to change the player at the right-back position.
Benjamin Pavard played on the right side of defense versus Australia but was replaced by Jules Kounde in the last minutes of the match. Kounde is a central defender, it’s a position he used to play at Sevilla and now with Barcelona who he joined in the summer. Kounde started the match against Denmark and played full 90+ minutes even earning a yellow card. The 23-year-old was pleased to have been given a chance and play from the start of the match even though it is not his usual position on the field.
“I don’t usually play at the right-back position, but whenever I do play, I need to do my best. I feel like I’m progressing every match, especially when it comes to transitioning to the attacking side,” Kounde said at the press conference before the final group match against Tunisia.
“I am willing to sacrifice myself for the team, whatever position the coach wants me to play, I will do my best. Even on the left side. This is another aspect of the game I can get better, and if the coach decides to put me on the left side, I will take that challenge.”
Kounde praises Barcelona teammate
Kounde was especially pleased to have played alongside his good friend and Barcelona teammate Ousmane Dembele, who he praised for his defensive work.
“Communication and cooperation are essential for the team’s success. Ousmane and I have a great understanding of the field, we help each other whenever we can. I was very impressed with the way Ousmane protected the right side, he was very helpful, strong, and determined.”
Kounde was also delighted with the decision to join Barcelona this summer even though he had other options to consider, especially the one from Chelsea who wanted him whatever the cost.
“I am happy with my choice, and the season with Barcelona is progressing well even though we didn’t do such a good job in the Champions League. But, we still have a lot of goals to achieve, La Liga is the one competition we desperately want to win.”
As Kounde joined Barcelona earlier in the summer, his good friend and France national team member, Aurelien Tchouameni, signed for his new team’s biggest rivals, Real Madrid.
“It’s special to share this stage in Qatar with Aurelien. It doesn’t matter we are rivals in La Liga, we want each other to succeed, especially with France.”
France, the defending World champions, have already secured a last-16 spot. Thewill play Tunisia on Wednesday to conclude the first stage of the tournament. It is still not known who will they face in the first playoff round, their opponent could be anyone from the teams in Group C with Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, or Mexico.