Former Newcastle United midfield Yohan Cabaye has struggled for a starting spot since making his €25 million move to Paris Saint-Germain last January, and now he has a genuine challenger for his place in the France national team.
On Friday evening, the French under-21 side beat Sweden 2-0 in the first-leg of their 2015 UEFA Under-21 European Championship play-off.
Florian Thauvin scored the first just before half time from the penalty spot, the second came late from the header of Geoffrey Kondogbia, and it is the AS Monaco man that looks to be the challenger that Cabaye should worry about most.
After signing for the newly promoted French club last summer from Sevilla, his time in Monaco started slowly, having to fight for a place in the midfield.
This season, although his team has struggled to replicate last season’s performances, game after game, Kondogbia has grown in stature.
His strong running ability, excellent reading of the game and energetic style has made him a commanding presence alongside Jeremy Toulalan and Joao Moutinho and he is the link between defence and attack, similar to the job Cabaye does for Didier Deschamps.
Kondogbia scored France’s second goal on Friday, a flashing, and powerful header from a late set-piece. It showed his physical attributes and desire to get into the box.
France change - Sanson (also impressive) off, Bahebeck on, AND GOAL KONDOGBIA!!!!— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) October 10, 2014
Quite often Deschamps has had to rely on Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko to add that physical presence to the midfield, but then you forgo the passing instincts of someone like Cabaye.
With the full national team only playing friendlies and the under-21 side looking to qualify for next summer’s tournament, there was more importance given to the younger squad than Deschamps’s side.
Once the play-offs are over, look for a number of young players to be given their chance to shine under Deschamps. Kondogbia will be one of the first players on the list if his current performances continue to impress, and if Cabaye’s season doesn’t improve, he will be one of the first to miss out.