Eduardo Camavinga returns to Madrid from Qatar without getting his hands on the World Cup, but his trip to the Gulf State hasn’t been completely fruitless. The Angolan-born French international had only played one game at the 2022 World Cup – against Tunisia in the group stage – before being called upon in the final by Didier Deschamps with France 2-0 down to Argentina. Just as he did against the Tunisians, Camavinga played as a makeshift left-back, a new position for the former Rennes man, but one that he seems to have settled into very quickly.
Coincidentally or not, France scored twice to level at 2-2 in the minutes after Camavinga had entered the fray, a familiar scenario for the youngster, who was often trusted by Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti last season as Los Blancos won the Champions League on the back of superb comebacks against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City. In those high-intensity clashes, he showed a poise rarely associated with a 19-year-old. And in the final in Qatar, now 20, he proved once again that the bigger the stage, the better he plays.
Camavinga’s performance was a huge improvement on that of the man he replaced, first-choice left-back Theo Hernández, who was unable to create anything in attack and lost the ball in dangerous positions on various occasions. In the 49 minutes he was on the pitch (not counting additional time in both the second half and extra time), he completed one dribble of the two he attempted, recovered six balls, lost just three and made 19 successful passes out of 21. He did his defensive duties well, despite having to keep a lid on Lionel Messi, and he offered an extra attacking outlet for France as the match drew to a close.
France equalised from 2-0 and then 3-2 down but ultimately lost out in the penalty shoot-out. However, Camavinga can be consoled somewhat by the fact that he has proven his versatility and his ability to perform at full-back should Ancleotti need him to, which could well lead to more minutes on the field once LaLiga gets back underway before New Year. Teammate Nacho is perhaps the best example of this: the academy product begins every campaign as third or fourth-choice centre-back but ends up seeing plenty of game time due to his ability to play in all four defensive positions.
There doesn’t appear to be a place for Camavinga in the Real Madrid midfield at the moment, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric nailed on as first-choice picks and Ancelotti considering the Frenchman as a different type of player to compatriot Aurélien Tchouaméni, who offers assuredness in possession and tactical discipline. Camavinga, on the other hand, is more explosive and dynamic, if a little less consistent, and is seen by the Italian as better playing ahead of a defensive midfielder, the position Camavinga wants to play. Fede Valverde, who has usually played as a false right winger this season, is next in the queue for a central midfield berth and often ends up in there at different stages of matches anyway.
The players had a training session at Real Madrid City as part of their preparations for the return to LaLiga action on Friday 30 December at the Estadio José Zorrilla against Valladolid (9:30pm CET). pic.twitter.com/IX7KiJfAdB
The possibility of Camavinga playing at left-back may open the door for him to start more games, although competition in that position is also fierce, with Antonio Rüdiger, David Alaba and Nacho all capable of playing there, as well as out-and-out left-back Ferland Mendy, the first-choice starter. Rüdiger’s preferred position is in central defence but Ancelotti has played him in different positions to give him plenty of game time. Alaba hasn’t impressed when played as a full-back this season, while Nacho is the man who has been least involved, although though Ancelotti knows he can rely on the Spaniard, despite his lack of pace.
Whether Ancelotti opts to try out Camavinga’s newfound versatility when Real Madrid’s season gets back underway against Real Valladolid on 30 December remains to be seen. In any case, the ex-Rennes star and France teammate Tchouaméni seem unlikely to feature in that particular game. Having reached the final of the World Cup, they are now due to have 10 days off, like the other players on the roster who played in Qatar. They could decide to cut that short but if they do play, they will have little time to train beforehand. We may therefore have to wait until January to see if Ancelotti choose to experiment with Camavinga.
Real Madrid’s matchday 15 LaLiga game away to Real Valladolid will be played on Friday, 30 December, with kick-off at 9:30pm local time (3:30pm ET, 12:30pm ET).
Los Blancos are currently two points behind Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.
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