The name Timothee Kolodziejczak might not mean a great deal to many football fans, but he is in fact one of the brightest young talents in the French game. He is neither a striker nor an advanced midfielder, but rather a left-footed attacking full-back.
It is a role that has evolved into almost that of a winger over the years, and one that requires a powerful pair of lungs. As FIFA.com found out, it is a position that suits the indefatigable youngster down to the ground.
Kolodziejczak was one of France’s most prominent performers against Korea Republic. Along with the rest of his team-mates, the 19-year-old was far from his best in France’s defeat by Colombia, but both he and Les Bleuets shows a marked improvement in the second match.
“The Colombians had us under the cosh from the first minute until the last,” said Kolodziejczak. “A slap in the face like that is not easy to take. But we stuck together and told ourselves it’s better to suffer this kind of defeat now than in the last 16, in the quarter-finals or even in the third group match. We said we’d put ourselves back on the right track against Korea Republic and come out even stronger.”
Kolodziejczak’s natural attacking instincts were in evidence from the off against Korea Republic, when he sent in a dangerous cross that Cedric Bakambu very nearly converted with his head. “I improved on my performance in the first match, that’s for sure,” he said. “Physically and tactically, I was much better.” That is the least the young Lyon starlet could say, as his contribution went far beyond what would usually be expected of a full-back. Indeed, it was his header in the penalty area that set up Gilles Sunu to score France’s opener.
“I don’t go up for every corner – I alternate with [Kalidou] Koulibaly,” said Kolodziejczak, son of a Polish father and a Martiniquais mother. “On that occasion, I went forward. They told me to make a dart for the penalty spot before pulling back to the far post, because that’s where the ball would drop. That’s what I did, and when the ball came to me I put it back into the centre. Gilles Sunu finished the job.”
'Kolo', as he is known to his friends due to his tricky surname, had very little interest in football as a young child and preferred instead to practise athletics. Then, on 12 July 1998, Les Bleus won the FIFA World Cup™ and the seven-year-old Kolodziejczak caught football fever. He subsequently signed up for a football club and it was from there that his fledgling career began to take shape.
Kolodziejczak’s background in athletics has helped him develop impressive stamina and a quick turn of pace, as his defensive colleague at Lyon, Sebastien Faure, recently testified. “He loves getting up and down the pitch,” Faure told francefootball.fr. “We often say he has four lungs, because all he does is run!”
Upon hearing his team-mate’s words, Kolodziejczak bursts out laughing. “Is that true? Did he say that?” he said. “In fact, I was born like that and I don’t have to work on it. It’s a gift – I can run for hours. It’s my main quality, and I exploit it much as I can.” As Kolodziejczak explains, he and Faure have a genuine understanding: “Sebastien and I know each other very well, and we have done for a long time. It’s a big advantage for the simple reason that we aren’t scared to say things to each other – even unpleasant things!”
The French U-20 squad features a seven-strong contingent of Lyon players, but only two of them are first choice in Francis Smerecki’s side. Nonetheless, Kolodziejczak believes the team’s core of Gones to be a real strong point. “There’s definitely an understanding there,” he said. “Clement Grenier, Enzo Reale and Alexandre Lacazette have been together since they were 12 or 13, and they know each other extremely well. So when they are on the pitch, it’s a plus.”
Beyond the clear understanding between the Lyon players in the group, France have shown real togetherness in their first two matches of Colombia 2011. They will need all of that team spirit in their crucial game against Mali, as Kolodziejczak is quick to point out.
“There is no question of sitting back and playing for a draw,” he said. “We want six points to make qualification a certainty. But we will be on our guard. Despite their two defeats, they’re a good team. They posed problems for the Colombians for an hour and created lots of chances.”
France’s goal is to reach at least the semi-finals of the competition, but former Lens defender Kolodziejczak is wary of looking too far ahead. His first objective is to beat Mali, but he knows Les Bleuets' defence is not in for an easy ride. “There will be a lot of work for us defenders,” he concluded. “They play a lot of long balls and they’re very physical. We’ll need to take control of the game and make them chase possession.”
And when it comes to running, Kolodziejczak certainly knows what he is talking about.