France’s elated substitute took on Randal Kolo Muani like royalty. One put his bulging hand on his head appreciatively. Everyone was beaming. Muani, the celebrated one, gaped wide. The Frankfurt Bundesliga professional stared wide-eyed at a teammate in the cheering cluster – as if he could hardly believe his luck. His first goal for the national team of the world champions on Wednesday evening was a very special one on the big stage in a stately setting: just 43 seconds after coming on as a substitute in the 78th minute of the World Cup semi-finals, the thoroughbred striker put the ball into the goal to make it 2-0 Morocco.
A hit for the history books as Kolo Muani is now fast track to the leaderboard in World Cup history. As a World Cup newcomer, Kolo Muani provided the third-fastest wildcard goal in history since records began in 1966. Only Uruguay’s Richard Morales, who needed 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute at the 2002 World Cup, and Denmark’s Ebbe Sand, who missed 26 four years earlier Seconds – were even quicker in scoring. Kolo Muani rejoiced in his steep career leap: “It’s magical, I have no words to describe it. I’m still in my dreams and having trouble waking up,” said the emotional attacker after his personal highlight game on French television.
“I dreamed of reaching the World Cup final as a child and I’m proud of my team-mates.” Only because Leipzig star striker Christopher Nkunku was injured was the upstart of Eintracht this first division season called up by national coach Didier Deschamps. Now Kolo Muani is in the final against Argentina in his first World Cup appearance. In the dream final between Europe and South America, according to the respective football establishment, which will be played this Sunday from 4 p.m. in the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
With the first touch of the ball
The 79th minute in Qatar at al-Khor’s stadium that catapulted Kolo Muani into the middle. Deschamps sent him on for Ousmane Dembélé a minute earlier. The combination that led to 2-0 was initiated by Gladbach’s Bundesliga colleague Marcus Thuram. In the penalty area, he passed the ball to Kylian Mbappé, who was strong at dribbling, and who in turn left several opponents standing. His deflected shot on goal ended up at the feet of Kolo Muani, who had no trouble putting the finishing touch.
It was his first and immediately winning touch of the ball in this game. “It’s good that I followed Kylian because he does all the work.” He can be proud of his positioning, said Kolo Muani. France had the momentum back on their side in the semifinals. “Of course I feel great. After the 2:0 we cleared our heads” – the goal scorer knew how valuable his work was. His proud employer, Eintracht Frankfurt, tweeted from his adopted home: “He’s doing riots at the World Cup. Proud of you!”
Kolo Muani needed a bit of warm-up time for his feat. Before the World Cup, the Frenchman, who was born in Bondy near Paris, had only played two international matches – he made his debut in September – with a total of ten minutes for the Equipe Tricolore. And in Qatar, Kolo Muani was initially only allowed to play 90 minutes in the final and meaningless group game against Tunisia. Nevertheless, he was the best possible solution for Deschamps at an important moment: Kolo Muani replaced Dembélé, who was only a year older but had many more merits.
The high point so far
Kolo Muani’s strength is “his speed, that’s why I brought him. And Kingsley Coman came in the last game but he wasn’t at 100 percent this time. So I decided on Kolo Muani.” In short: “He was the best choice that day to come on as a substitute,” emphasized Deschamps, adding: Kolo Muani’s sense of achievement is “great for him and the team”. The national coach had already shown courage when he replaced France’s record scorer Olivier Giroud with Thuram in the 73rd minute. Like Kolo Muani, the man from Gladbach is comparatively inexperienced internationally. Instead of the two stars Giroud and Dembélé, two Bundesliga professionals now occupied the powerful offensive department of the French.
Kolo Muani is now the first Eintracht player to score in a World Cup semi-final. This form of semi-finals has only existed since 1982. In 1974, Jürgen Grabowski scored for Germany against Sweden in the World Cup final round, and in 1978 Bernd Hölzenbein scored against Austria.
Kolo Muani’s market value, estimated by the portal transfermarkt.de at 30 million euros, will now continue to rise. Eight goals and 11 assists in 23 competitive games with Eintracht in three competitions bear witness to his rise to fame after moving from FC Nantes to the Main on a free transfer earlier this season. Despite the merits of Rafael Borré, he quickly became the number one striker in Frankfurt.
Kolo Muani, whose contract expires on July 1, 2027, has caught the eye of top European clubs with his attacking prowess, tackling prowess and technical ability. The goal against Morocco was the highlight of his striker career so far. “I’m not realizing it at the moment. We’ll all realize it tomorrow morning,” said Kolo Muani in a rush of happiness, without forgetting the most important thing. “We have to give everything to make it to the end.” To the world championship title. Then Kolo Muani should call himself world champion at the age of 24.