RC Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba has earned a maiden call-up to Didier Deschamps' France squad for upcoming matches against the Netherland and Ireland, but what else is there to know about him?
France goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda - the latter a former Olympique de Marseille teammate of Samba's - announced their international retirements after the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, in which les Bleus finished as runners-up to Argentina.
It has left space in the squad that Samba will readily fill, having helped Lens up to third behind Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille in Ligue 1 Uber Eats this season.
Samba is the son of former Republic of Congo goalkeeper Brice Samba, and he was born in Linzolo, a suburb of the African nation's capital Brazzaville, on 24 April 1994 - meaning he shared a birthdate with a certain Johan Cruyff.
He moved to France at a young age and came through the youth academy at Le Havre, signing pro terms on his 16th birthday and making his full debut at 18. He soon followed Mandanda to OM but couldn't get past the long-time captain at the Orange Vélodrome.
Samba spent a few seasons on loan with AS Nancy Lorraine and SM Caen before joining Nottingham Forest in 2019, becoming a fan favourite at the City ground and helping them to Premier League promotion last season.
Lens signed him to be their new No.1 at the start of the current campaign, and he has impressed in the role, keeping 10 clean sheets in his 27 Ligue 1 Uber Eats games so far this season.
Style of play:
Samba is physically imposing goalkeeper who dominated his box, stopping the majority of crosses into as well as shots on his goal - 80 per cent to be precise. He also has a big personality, regularly pulling off antics to inspire his defence and intimidate the opposition.
Samba made his debut in the opening day 3-2 win over Stade Brestois 29, a match in which he was grateful for Florian Sotoca's hat-trick after conceding two late goals - but he has settled into the role quickly.
He made a one-handed save from an attempted Adil Rami lob when Lens beat ESTAC Troyes 1-0 in September, and was in fine fettle in January as les Sang et Or beat PSG 3-1 at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in January, making five saved from big chances on his goal.
What they said:
"It surprised more than one, that’s for sure. Playing in the Premier League is a dream for certain footballers. For me, it was a choice of the heart, like I've often said. I felt a lot of desire from Lens, I felt they really wanted me and that's really important for me."
- Samba on joining Lens for a club record €5 million fee last summer.
"We’ve spoiled people by winning games. This is the best season Lens has had in 120 years. For us, there hasn't been a drop in form. A season's a long journey. It's never calm. There are storms. If we can regain our rhythm from the start of the season, it can be very, very dangerous."
- Samba on Lens pursuit of European football.
"Of course. I've said it before. I’ll be watching [the squad announcement] closely. I hope to be there. I want to give my all every weekend. It would be a pleasure, a dream to be one of the three goalkeepers."
- Samba on a dream that came true on Thursday.