After scoring the goal that sealed France’s 2-0 semi-final win against Morocco, Randal Kolo Muani admitted he is savouring a dream come true.
When it comes to realising childhood dreams, there is often a very fine line between making them come true and missing out entirely. Randal Kolo Muani knows that better than most. For starters, the Eintracht Frankfurt forward only clinched his spot in France’s FIFA World Cup™ squad due to the torn knee ligament suffered by Christopher Nkunku in the very last training session before Les Bleus left for Qatar. When he was called up to replace his RB Leipzig counterpart in mid-November, the 24-year-old had spent just 12 minutes on the pitch for his country: one against Austria in the UEFA Nations League and 11 against Denmark in the same competition. A pair of matches which dated back to September this year. A few weeks later, Kolo Muani found himself involved from start to finish on the World Cup stage as France took on Tunisia in their final group game. Admittedly, his team had already qualified and Didier Deschamps decided to field him as the spearhead of a much-changed side, but the former Nantes player was among the busiest men on the field during the 1-0 defeat.
Fast forward a mere two weeks and the 2022 Coupe de France winner was back on the pitch… in a World Cup semi-final. No pressure, then. And, fittingly perhaps, once again his participation involved an element of fate and fortune.
“Kingsley Coman would have gone on before but he was feeling a little feverish this afternoon,” said Deschamps in a press conference after the game, explaining the change in hierarchy that gifted Kolo Muani his chance at Al Bayt Stadium. “Kolo’s sprinting ability is even more significant,” he added. “What he did was a good example to all the other players who haven’t been used and can still be used. The bench is important. Good for Kolo and so much the better for the whole squad.” Indeed, the substitute was not simply content to be on the pitch with the likes of Marcus Thuram and his fellow Bondy native Kylian Mbappe (Kolo Muani having been born in the same Parisian suburb on 5 December 1998, 15 days before France’s top scorer in Qatar). Instead, just as France were being stifled by Morocco’s tenacity, he struck the goal that gave Les Bleus a 2-0 lead and vital breathing space. And with his very first touch, no less.
Although he can scarcely have imagined the circumstances of his crucial strike, Kolo Muani seemed to take his fairy-tale contribution in his stride. “You have to be ready to come on at any instant when the moment arrives,” he explained, keeping his calm to the journalists waiting for him in the mixed zone after the final whistle. “I think the coach knows we’re all ready to come on and give our best.” Even so, he had an admission to make before he was done. “Did I dream of scoring this goal six months ago? Of course. Ten years ago, even! This is a boyhood dream.” A boyhood dream, and one that could so easily not have come true. And who knows? Perhaps he will get to realise another long-held ambition in just three days’ time – by lifting the most prestigious trophy in international football.