The term ‘impact player’ has become common parlance in modern-day football, and appears at first glance to have only positive connotations. There is, however, one problem with being cast in this game-changing role: it generally means a spot on the bench.
Elodie Thomis has found that to her cost both here at London 2012 and during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, when all but one of her five appearances came as a substitute. Yesterday brought yet another cameo in France’s 5-0 win over Korea DPR, and to say the 25-year-old lived up to her super-sub billing would be something of an understatement.
Thomis didn’t merely make an impact; she completely transformed a match that, prior to her 61st-minute introduction, had been entirely devoid of excitement and inspiration. The facts - two assists, one goal and a narrow 1-0 lead turned into a 5-0 rout - speak for themselves.
Ordinarily, such a contribution would lead to a knock on the coach’s door, and a suggestion from the player in question that they had earned a chance to contribute over 90 minutes rather than 30. Thomis, however, seems to be a genuine exception.
Asked if she now expected to start France’s next game against Colombia, she said: “No, I’m not sure of that, and it won’t bother me if I don’t. I’m happy to serve the team and it never disappoints me if my name isn’t in the first XI. What’s important is not that I start the game, but that I make a contribution. And whether that is by starting or by coming on in the middle of a match, I am happy as long as I am helping the team. That goes for the next match too.”
Such altruism can only be applauded, and it could well be that Thomis has simply found her niche. Her greatest asset, pace, certainly proved far more effective against the tiring legs of Korea DPR than it had over an entire match against USA. It is also interesting to note that the only game she started during the FIFA Women’s World Cup was the only one France lost in normal time.
Thomis was nevertheless unduly modest in her attempts to downplay her contribution to France’s first victory at London 2012. “I don’t think the game changed because of me,” she told FIFA.com. “I must credit my team-mates because they know me well and I received some great service from them. They know I like the ball played deep, in behind the defence, and they kept giving me those kind of passes. That made it much easier for me to make the kind of contribution I did.”
The standards set during yesterday’s second half against Korea DPR were undoubtedly a great deal closer to expectations for this France side, who came into the Olympics as arguably the form team in women’s football. Thomis, a double UEFA Women’s Champions League winner with her club, Lyon, certainly believes that yesterday’s success has restored the team’s confidence after their morale-sapping 4-2 defeat by USA.
“Winning like this has lifted the pressure we felt,” she said. “After losing to USA, we knew had to win this match to keep going in this tournament and that put us in a stressful situation. The first half wasn’t great, it’s true, but what we will remember from this match is that we won 5-0. That will give us confidence going forward, and I still believe we can win a medal.”
With an impact player as spectacular and selfless as Thomis, who would dare rule that out?