N’Golo Kante: How ex-Chelsea man turned it out around to become France’s ‘Mr Reliable’ again

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N’Golo Kante: How ex-Chelsea man turned it out around to become France’s ‘Mr Reliable’ again

Joel Omotto 15:47 - 18.06.2024

N’Golo Kante put in a man of the match performance as France started their Euro 2024 campaign with victory but how did the ‘forgotten man’ return to his brilliant best?

France midfielder N’Golo Kante was named man of the match as Les Bleus secured a 1-0 victory against Austria in their Euro 2024 opener on Monday.

In a star-studded squad, it was not Kylian Mbappe getting the plaudits but Kante after an impressive performance in midfield.

It was not an easy game for the French as Austria pressed them high and only scored via an own goal but were it not for Kante, Didier Deschamps’ men would have shared the spoils or even lost the match.

It was a great return for Kante who last played for France in June 2022 and was not part of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after undergoing an operation on a hamstring injury.

It has been urged that had Kante been present in the World Cup final against Argentine, France might have defended their crown.

That is still a subject of debate but what is not up for discussion is that the player has returned to his brilliant best and delivered on the big stage once again.

Kante helped France to hold the tempo of the game through and became a constant blockage in between the Austrian forward runs. Even during the attacking runs from France, Kante's ball distribution was simply top-notch.

He made one goal-saving tackle when he ran several yards to win the ball while France were outnumbered at the back. So much for a 33-year-old!

“It was a bit difficult to start, with apprehension...It was good to start together, it was nice to get these feelings back. We started very well for this competition, and we’re very happy about this," Kante said after the match.

Kante lost his place in the national team after injuries and poor form slowed him for nearly two years.

He rarely played in his final two seasons at Chelsea, making just nine appearances in 2022-23, and it looked like his best days were behind him.

When his contract came to an end last June, Chelsea cut ties, ending a six-year trophy-laden spell at Stamford Bridge, with Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad signing him.

At the time, it looked like the Saudi giants were taking a major gamble while others saw it as an opportunity for Kante to get one last big payday.

However, as witnessed on Monday, the move seems to have paid off as Kante has returned to his old form.

The former Leicester City midfielder came into the tournament in the back of a good season in Saudi as he made 44 appearances across all competitions, scoring four goals while providing six assists.

For a deep-lying midfielder who was written off just a year ago, that was a great return and now, France are the biggest beneficiary again.

As Les Bleus plan to go all the way at Euro 2024, they will be hoping the ride is smooth, all thanks to ‘Kante tyres’.

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