“Ah, there are faces here that I know.” All smiling, Ousmane Dembele appeared before the media this Wednesday in Doha to discuss his and the Blues’ news after the success against Australia (4-1). The 25-year-old striker, who scored the decisive pass against Soccer and has not played for the Blues since March 2021, commented on his development since the World Cup in Russia. He admits he has matured.
What do you think of Olivier Giroud’s trajectory and how does it feel to start next to the Blues’ runner-up scorer?
USMAN DEMBELE. Ever since I’ve been with him (6 years), he’s been decisive every time. Returning to the top of Thierry Henry is a source of great pride. We are very happy for him and hope that he will score as many goals as possible in the tournament. (…) He’s a great guy, talks to everyone, I’ve always got along well with Olive. He has experience, he won everywhere he went. He is raising the youngest, he is a key player in our team.
What has changed for you since 2018?
Many things ! If we compare the 2018 game with Australia and yesterday, there are a lot of changes. I just came back from a year and a half without injury, I’ve also aged a bit, I’m now 25, I’m a little more mature in my game, including off the field. (…) You grow up with age. My lifestyle? This is a question that comes up often, but I think it should be erased for now. Hygiene in the sense in which we understand it, I also did not have … It was not a party! But it’s changing, it’s true. (…) I am ambitious, I want to start matches, score, score. I want to be the protagonist of this World Cup. In 2018 I missed my first game which cost me my seat. I came out of a very difficult year with an injury and a lot of things that were talked about everywhere. I became calmer, more mature. It’s one of my priorities to be able to grow in this World Cup, I want to keep working, working to be able to make a great World Cup.
When you see your friends Mbappe and Griezmann team up like yesterday (Tuesday), does that promise happy days?
I hope these are two great players, two good players. On the field, they are very combined and find each other. We hope that they will have a lot of competition. They will lead us again in the next games, these are the two team leaders.
What does Didier Deschamps require of you?
He asks me to drive away, to bring danger one on one. He gives me a lot of freedom and I also talk a lot with Antoine (Grieezmann). When he wants to move away, I go to the axis. The team has a lot of movement. (…) I felt good (Tuesday evening). I’ve been confident for quite some time, I’m trying to bring the team and in yesterday’s game, although there were a few balls that I could dribble better, I was trying to bring danger to my side. The coach asks me about this.
Do you consider yourself a unifying element in the team?
I don’t know… I like a good atmosphere and I like that everything is going well in the team. That’s why I get along well with everyone. Important, we saw it four years ago. The World Cup was won by a group, not individual athletes. It takes some effort, but what helped us win in 2018 is, first of all, a good band that lives, laughs and knows how to be serious when necessary.
After Argentina, Germany lost to an obviously weaker opponent (Japan). What inspires you?
Eh? Germany lost? (Editor’s note: he is studying). There are no small teams in modern football. Everyone is working on tactics. We saw it yesterday with Saudi Arabia (Editor’s note: against Argentina 2-1), we must not slow down. If you reduce the intensity, you will immediately be surprised. It’s not a small nation anymore, we’ve also seen that with Denmark against us in the last two games. If we combine the intensity and all the ingredients with our team, I think we have nothing to worry about.
How has the departure of Lucas Hernandez affected you?
This is a big loss for us, someone important on and off the field. He will be greatly missed.