Scorer of two goals as France downed Ukraine 3-0 in their play-off decider, Mamadou Sakho was the central hero of the team's qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. It was an unforgettable moment for the athletic centre-back, who first rose through Paris Saint-Germain's academy system to make his professional debut at 17. Just a few months after his introduction to Ligue 1, the left-footed defender then became the youngest player in the club's history to slip on the captain's armband.

A precocious talent, Sakho's potential was spotted early on by his country as well, and he represented France at every age group in his youth. That brought him vital experience in a number of international tournaments, and when he eventually made his first senior appearance, he could pride himself on being the third youngest centre-back to ever line up for Les Bleus.

Particularly effective in the tackle, Sakho was also beginning to stand out as a linchpin for a PSG side in transition. His progress was nonetheless interrupted by the club's ambitious transfer policy, with a fresh injection of resources paving the way for the recruitment of established names such as Brazilian duo Alex and Thiago Silva. Frustrated by his lack of playing time, Sakho finally opted to leave the French capital for Liverpool in September 2013.