Mamadou Sakho has arguably been Liverpool's most impressive player at the World Cup, starting in each of France's three matches and putting together some of the most consistent defense work the tournament has seen thus far. It doesn't hurt that his nation have collectively been one of the best over the past few weeks, but with a starting spot not necessarily guaranteed prior to arriving in Brazil, Sakho has been terrific. Playing through a mild thigh injury, he's partnered well with Raphael Varane and cemented himself as first-choice ahead of Laurent Koscielny.
Sakho's also fairly fortunate that he'll be eligible to play against Nigeria in France's Round of 16 matchup on Monday afternoon, as he delivered a nasty elbow to the head of Ecuador's Oswaldo Minda in the first half on Wednesday. FIFA could have taken retrospective action but ultimately decided against it, and for his part, Sakho was well aware that punishment was looming:
"By jumping, it makes me nudge him. Perhaps it can be dangerous, it could open up the game. The referee made his decision, I respect it. If they think I deserve it, they will make their decision. I always play to respect the opposition. And I would like my opponents to respect me. It was to protect me then. I'm not there to do bad things or to hurt people. I rarely got yellow cards or red cards. I have a hard game, but, not a bad game."
Nice that he's eligible, but in fairness the incident could and probably should have seen him receive some sort of punishment (note: this is not an invitation to debate whether or not the elbow was "worse" than what Luis Suarez did. Don't have that discussion here or anywhere, please.). Having escaped that, though, there were still questions about his availability for the Nigeria tie, with questions about his fitness after being taken off on the hour by Didier Deschamps.
Reports appear to be all clear in that regard as well, and he'll undergo fitness tests over the weekend to ensure he's ready for kickoff on Monday.
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