Jules Koundé is applying for a starting spot on Wednesday against Tunisia, and of course at the end of the week in the round of 16. The former defender of Girondins de Bordeaux and Sevilla FC hopes to capitalize on his solid performance against Denmark (2-1) on Saturday evening to keep the confidence of Didier Deschamps.
His competition with Benjamin Pavard, his relationship with his Catalan teammate Ousmane Dembélé or his friend Aurélien Tchouaméni… Jules Koundé (22 years old and 14 selections) made the rounds of his news on Monday at the Jassim Bin Hamad training center in Doha (Qatar) .
How do you feel at right-back?
JULES KOUNDE. I feel good. As the coach said, we talked about it before the competition, I knew what my role would be. I accepted and am quite happy with it. I am happy with the qualification and with my match even if personally, there are things to improve, I am aware of that.
You are in competition with Benjamin Pavard. How do you handle this? Are you talking about this position together? And what are your areas for improvement?
It’s quite healthy competition. We have to discuss and we try to bring our turn as much as possible when we have to play. After the coach makes his choices. It’s not our favorite job but we do it with the maximum of desire and with the idea of contributing to the team. The axes of progression, it is essentially on the offensive contribution, to have a little more technical accuracy. I lost a few easy balls. I also have to communicate with my partners to get as many benchmarks as possible. Playing with Dembélé at Barcelona also helps me. We played a few games together in the hallway. I also meet him in training, I know his strengths, his weaknesses. We don’t necessarily ask him the same things here as at Barça. But he was valuable defensively on Saturday.
We talk a lot about the osmosis that emerges from this group. What is your take on this atmosphere?
She is very important. It’s going really well. There is a very young part and others with a little more experience. The mix is going really well. Everyone has the possibility of expressing themselves, it laughs a lot, while being serious when necessary. It impacts and it plays so that, behind, we can be efficient. It helps to have a group that gets along both outside and on the pitch. Although I’m relatively young, I have a little experience with France so I don’t hesitate if I have things to get across.
Griezmann excels in midfield. Are you surprised by your performance? Are there any settings to be made?
Surprised, no, he is a player with the technical quality that allows him to get by in all positions. Surprised perhaps because he is not used to evolving in this position but he does it very well. Afterwards, he has the characteristic of always making the effort, even when he is positioned higher on the ground. He does not have all the benchmarks for this position so it requires some adjustments but he is quite intelligent and the coach spoke well with him.
How did Didier Deschamps tell you about this position?
We had a discussion before and during (the World Cup, editor’s note). It is important after a tournament to know what role we are going to have. It’s something that allowed me to focus well and be more relaxed.
Did you have any reluctance to play this position?
No. Playing in the France team is always a chance and that, I measure it. Although my performance has not always been good in this position, I have always tried to do it with envy. I am progressing little by little, especially the offensive part.
Is it possible to see you on the left?
We’ll see. I may have played there once. Why not ? Anyway, I’ll do my best if that’s the case.
“Of course there have been ups and downs”
A red card against Bosnia, a penalty conceded against Hungary at the Euro… Are you missing a reference match?
I do not know. Of course, there have been ups and downs. I also had good matches, in the League of Nations against Belgium or Spain. As a defender, I found that I had fulfilled my function rather well. After all, everyone has a different perception. I have mine. I hope to grow more and more and be as efficient as possible.
How do you approach this match against Tunisia?
Admittedly, we have already qualified but I know that we want to keep the good momentum and win this match. Even if the coach will undoubtedly make changes. Everyone is very concerned. It’s the possibility for some to have playing time. It gives a lot of desire, with a fairly young group. When there is less experience, it is even more marked. This match will not be easy. We took a good look at Tunisia. He is an opponent who puts a lot of desire, which posed problems for the Danes (0-0). We will take them seriously.
You took a yellow card against Denmark. Is it dangerous to see you in this third game?
It requires a little more attention. But that’s not why I will slow down if I have to play.
How do you handle comments in your view? Are you sensitive to criticism?
Criticism is part of our job. Must accept it. Of course it’s better when it’s constructive. I don’t see it badly. Sometimes my loved ones can be affected more than ourselves. But for now, it’s going well.
Didier Deschamps “does not ask us to hurry from the start”
You are going through this World Cup with one of your best friends Aurélien Tchouaméni. What makes this competition special?
We evolved a lot together in Bordeaux. We didn’t necessarily talk about the France team when we were young. but as the stages progressed, the clubs changing, it started to come into our heads. It is really nice. It makes those moments even more special. We have always had these similarities in our ways of seeing football, in our mentality, in the fact that we are in the same agency. This same desire to succeed binds us.
What is the tactical plan of the France team?
It depends on the opponent we meet. Denmark, we know that they are a team which raises very well and which is very skilful in its way of positioning itself with a lot of players inside. It makes pressing a little more complicated. So, we tend to stay well in block, not necessarily very high but the coach asks us to defend while advancing and to be aggressive when they enter the zone. He does not ask us to hurry from the start.