Laurent Koscielny was expected by many to lead the French defense at this summer's World Cup, but tendinitis in his achille's ruled him out through much of the run-in, and, in his absence, Mamadou Sakho stepped forward. The 24-year-old carried his club form into the national side, striking an effective balance with Real Madrid's Raphael Varane in central defense and cementing himself a starting spot even as Koscielny worked his way back to full fitness.
Sakho's displays against Honduras and Switzerland have been a joy to watch; strong in the air and consistently excellent in the passing game, he's done everything asked of him and more as France romped through their first two matches. Concerns emerged just after the hour mark in the win over Switzerland, however, as he limped off with what was later confirmed to be a thigh injury.
The substitution looked precuationary more than anything else, though, and for his part the player didn't think he'd be missing any further action:
"I felt some pain after going in for a tackle, but I'm OK. I'm going to have a good rest and then tomorrow the medical staff will examine me to see exactly what the situation is. It's true that we backed off a bit; we dropped our level somewhat and Switzerland really had a go. We went on to concede twice and all credit to them, but we played our game and stayed focused from beginning to end, and that's what we should take away from the match."
France are in a commanding position but not yet through, as Ecuador's win over Honduras meant that there's still a mathematical possibility one of the tournament's most impressive performers could be left out of the knockout rounds. Given that Sakho and Varane are yet to concede as a pairing, you'd expect the Liverpool man to come right back as long as he's fit. With reports emerging tonight that scans were negative for any serious damage, that looks to be the case.