Wednesday 12 September 2018, 06:22

Pavard’s perfect pearler

  • Pavard’s pearler nominated for the FIFA Puskás Award

  • The Frenchman’s stunner at Russia 2018 was voted Hyundai Goal of the Tournament by fans

  • Is it the best goal of 2018?

"Benjamin Pavard, he’s come from nowhere" goes part of the memorable song that France fans composed for the Stuttgart defender over the summer, a sentiment that was shared by most football observers when Didier Deschamps called him up for the first time.

Practically unknown in France prior to packing his bags for Germany in 2015, Pavard took just a handful of international matches to secure a regular spot on the team, and went into the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ as the first-choice right-back. During Les Bleus’ Round-of-16 match with Argentina, he again came from nowhere to definitively seal a place in French football folklore.

The moment in question came in the 57th minute on 30 June in Kazan: the French, despite dominating the encounter up to that point, were trailing 2-1. Pavard had not been completely blameless in the lead-up to the Argentinian goals, which had both originated down his flank, and he was clearly determined to help his country get back in the match.

Lucas Hernandez, running onto a fine through-ball by Blaise Matuidi down the left wing, instantly whipped in a cross from the byline that was too high for Olivier Giroud at the near post, too far for Antoine Griezmann on the penalty spot, and too strong for Kylian Mbappe, lurking just inside the box.

Millions of viewers who were following the action – and you, as well, if you watch the video above – did not initially see any other French players on the screen, until Pavard seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

The young defender, who had kept up with play, steadied himself and struck the ball beautifully on the half-volley, sending it soaring into the top-left hand corner of La Albiceleste's net, beyond the outstretched arms of Franco Armani.

"It’s incredible," Matuidi, evidently still struggling to take it all in, told after the match. "I saw Hernandez, our left-back, make a great run down the wing, slipping in between two defenders. He sent over a deep cross, and our other full-back was there to stick it in! The way he met the ball was amazing, especially with that bounce. Benjamin showed great character and got us back into the match."

Having conjured up an equaliser, Les Bleus would subsequently score two more goals to seal a berth in the quarter-finals and take another step towards a second world crown. Pavard’s beauty will forever be regarded as one of the pivotal moments of France’s quest for glory at Russia 2018, and it was duly voted Goal of the Tournament by users.

Will Pavard pick up the FIFA Puskás Award for his sensational strike? You decide!

What they said

"The ball comes across, and it takes a bounce. I don’t hesitate, and I try to get my body over the ball so it doesn’t go flying over the bar. I attempt to send it back the way it came – that’s what strikers have always told me to do. I do it without thinking, and when I see it hit the back of the net, I’m overcome with joy." Benjamin Pavard

"Benjamin is very adept at that kind of thing. We’ve seen how capable he is in training exercises. He plays in a position that allows him to get the odd shot on goal. Although it’s not something I put a particular emphasis on, he’s a very good defender who’s able to contribute to our attack by either scoring or providing assists." Didier Deschamps

"Where he struck it was perfect. The timing and technique were great. It was spot-on; everything about it was fantastic." Paul Pogba