Saturday 30 June 2018, 19:27

Pavard makes his presence felt

  • Benjamin Pavard scored one of the goals of Russia 2018 so far

  • Stuttgart defender not usually known for his goals

  • Pavard: "I can’t describe it. I’m still feeling emotional"

By Adrien Gingold with France

A virtual unknown in France barely three months ago, Benjamin Pavard is currently starring with Les Bleus at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. Having proven himself to be a dependable and occasionally inspired performer, the defender today stepped up to score one of the goals of the tournament and help his side beat Argentina 4-3 and book their place in the quarter-finals. We discussed the goal in depth with the man himself.

“In German we say Tor. To hit a shot like that – I can’t describe it. I’m still feeling emotional,” said the VfB Stuttgart player as he left the pitch, still smiling in wonder at it all.

So what was going through his mind when the ball came his way? Pavard, who plays in the centre of defence for his club, recalled the moment.

“The ball bounced up as it came to me. I didn’t even think about it. I just tried to get over it and keep it down. I was trying to hit it in the direction it came from, which is what the strikers always tell me. I didn’t think it over, and when it went in I just felt so happy.”

That happiness stemmed from the fact he had pulled his side level at 2-2 with 57 minutes on the clock and changed the course of the match, as a suitably impressed and almost disbelieving Blaise Matuidi told us afterwards: “It was amazing. I saw Lucas Hernandez, on the left, get between two defenders. He pulled the ball back and it’s the other full-back who’s there to put it away.

“It’s amazing he managed to hit it like that, especially with the ball bouncing. Benjamin is a strong character. He got us back into the match. And he’s a very young player too.”

Positive determination It was the 22-year-old Pavard’s first goal for his country. So what was going through his head when the ball arrowed its way into the top corner?

“My first instinct was just to run to the dugout,” said the former Lille man. “For me it’s the team that wins, the 23 players and the coaching staff too. I slid on my knees and everyone came up to me. I’m not used to scoring, so I don’t have any special goal celebration.”

France v Argentina: Benjamin Pavard of France celebrates after scoring

It did not look that way as he made a heart shape with his hands.

“Yes, that’s true,” acknowledged the Mauberge-born defender, who could not help laughing. “It was for my girlfriend, who was in the stands. I called my parents after the match too, because if they hadn’t done all those kilometres for me I wouldn’t be here today. They were the ones who taught me that positive determination, to give it my all, especially my father.”

Trying to compose himself, an emotional Pavard added: “They’ve been supporting me for a long time and this goal is a reward for them too.”

France were introduced to the young defender three months ago. Today it was the world’s turn.