Few players will have gone into the second round of World Cup group games feeling they had as much to prove as Edouard Mendy. In truth, it was perhaps not the opposition to come out with a rallying performance, Qatar could not even manage a shot on target against Ecuador.
However, Mendy’s role in the two Netherlands goals he conceded on Monday will have left him knowing that he had to re-establish his authority in the African side’s net. Chelsea teammate Kalidou Koulibaly defended the goalkeeper ahead of Qatar suggesting there had been an overreaction.
Speaking in Senegal’s pre-match press conference, Koulibaly said: “We do speak a lot, we play at the same club and we are brothers in arms for Senegal. He is a very important player for us, it is normal to go through difficult phases.
“We are making a mountain out of a molehill here. He knows what he needs to do tomorrow, and the rest of the team do as well and we are going to try to put everything together to pull something out of the bag.
“When a team loses it’s not down to one player, it’s down to the whole team. We are going to do everything we can to change this but I don’t think we should be making a big deal of this. I am not worried, I know Edouard will be on top of his game tomorrow.”
At one point, Mendy threatened to go through the game untested as the World Cup hosts again struggled to find the target. However, Chelsea’s keeper managed to vindicate Koulibaly’s words to an extent.
In the 68th minute Mendy produced a world class save, low to his right as a Qatar looked to capitalise from six-yards out through Ismail Mohamad. The connection wasn’t clean but the 30-year-old reacted with perfection to keep his clean sheet in tact.
Unfortunately, before the game was out Mendy had conceded, though he was able to do little about it. Koulibaly was caught grounded as Mohammed Muntari rose highest to head in for Qatar’s first goal of the tournament from close range.
For Mendy, that one save won’t change everything however. Much like too much can’t be made of his errors versus Netherlands, his quality when required against Qatar cannot be blown up too much.
The former Rennes goalkeeper has too regularly lapsed this term, in stark contrast to the portfolio of work he built up on the way to finishing as runner-up for the Yashin Trophy in 2021. Being displaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga could be Mendy’s first task to overcome but after being on target to improve his Chelsea contract in the summer, there is a chance he could soon be in for more competition.
Gabriel Slonina arrives in January, and although he may not immediately challenge for the number one spot, the Blues may use the rest of the season to decide whether they must turn their attention to the position in the summer. If he can earn his place as Chelsea’s number one, he will then have to show an extended period of form to prove the club should instead invest in him.