Moussa Sissoko is rarely the first name on Didier Deschamps’ team sheet, but could get a starting place for France against Germany in the Euro 2016 semi-final on Thursday.
Sissoko, who will decide on his future with Newcastle United after the tournament, does not complain about being a bit-part player in Deschamps’ set-up.
“Just being here is huge for me. When I was a kid my dream was to play professional football and to play for France,” he said.
“I’ve achieved my dream. That gives me strength, and I try to give everything back to the team when I play.”
France on Thursday will look to end a 58-year wait to beat Germany at a major finals, having last triumphed 6-3 in the match for third place at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
And with a place in the July 10 final at stake, Deschamps has a decision to make.
The last time France suffered defeat when Sissoko started a game was a 1-0 friendly defeat to Japan in October 2012 in Paris.
But at Euro 2016, the France coach has used his supersub midfielder sparingly.
In France’s opening win over Romania, Sissoko started on the bench as Deschamps deployed a 4-3-3 with N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba operating in midfield.
Amid concerns over his attack, Deschamps then tweaked his formation to a 4-2-3-1 for a last-gasp 2-0 win over Albania, when Kante and Matuidi played as holding midfielders.
Sissoko was given his first start of the tournament in a three-man midfield alongside Yohan Cabaye and Pogba as France eked out a scoreless draw with Switzerland.
It earned them top spot in the group and maintained France’s record of going unbeaten when Sissoko starts a game.
Against the Republic of Ireland, Deschamps switched back to Pogba, Kante and Matuidi. Sissoko made only making a last-gasp appearance for Kingsley Coman.
It took until France’s clash with England’s conquerors Iceland for Sissoko to return to the fray.
And again, France fans were not disappointed. With Sissoko playing on the right side of a three-man midfield in a 4-2-3-1, France forwards Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud were brought closer together — and the effect was sensational.
Giroud scored first, Pogba headed France’s second, while Dmitri Payet and Griezmann found the net to give the hosts a 4-0 half-time lead.
The match finished 5-2 and sealed France’s date with Germany.
“It was our best performance so far,” said Sissoko, whose presence has also squeezed the best out of an inconsistent Pogba.
“My job is to close down my flank, push myself forward when I can and, when we’re defending, shut down central midfield with Paul and Blaise.
“When I’m next to them, we have more defensive security. Plus, it allows Paul a bit more freedom. He can move forward move because he knows I can cover him.”
Sissoko has no idea if he will be part of Deschamps’ starting line-up on Thursday in Marseille, where France overcame a tough Albania 2-0 in the group stage at the death thanks to late goals from Griezmann and Payet.
And he did not play when Germany ousted France from the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But that has not dampened his spirits, nor his ambition.
“We still haven’t got over that defeat,” he said. “It will be the right time to make amends.
“I don’t know if I’ll start against Germany. Of course I’d like to, but if I start on the bench I’ll be ready when the team needs me.”