By Matthew Wilson.
The Burkina Faso men’s national football team has never qualified for a senior World Cup. The country has, though, participated in five World Cups at the youth level, and even finished third in the 2001 U17 World Cup.
Those results in the younger age groups suggest that there is talent in Burkina Faso, but talent yet to be fully realized on the senior stage.
Neighbours Ghana and Ivory Coast have done a better job at this, and have produced recognizable stars in world football who have gone on to play in World Cups and win Champions Leagues.
Burkina Faso internationals like Jonathan Pitroipa and Charles Kaboré had good careers but, admittedly, there is still another level to go.
Ex-Chelsea winger Bertrand Traoré has been leading the charge to change the image of the Burkina Faso football, but behind him is a player who quietly entered the Bundesliga in January, but has made a massive impact since.
That player is 21-year-old centre-back, Edmond Tapsoba.
Since joining Bayer Leverkusen in January, Tapsoba was added straight into the starting XI by head coach Peter Bosz, and what a decision that was.
The last game Leverkusen lost was the last time they played a league match without the Burkinabé. With Tapsoba in the line-up, Leverkusen won nine of the last ten games in all competitions.
The only time they didn’t manage to pick up the win was in a 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig, when Tapsoba managed to stop the free-scoring Timo Werner from finding the net.
He did the same to Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, as Leverkusen became the first defence to keep the Norwegian phenom goalless, putting a temporary halt to his red-hot start in the Bundesliga.
While all the talk has been about Haaland’s outstanding beginning up front for Dortmund, some attention should be given to Tapsoba’s seamless adaptation to German football in Leverkusen defence.
Signed for just £22m from Portuguese outfit Vitória Guimarães, Leverkusen seems to have hit the jackpot with the versatile ball-playing centre-back. Tapsoba is also very capable in the air and has a knack for grabbing a few goals of his own.
His former coach at Vitória, Ivo Vieira, believes the defender has all the tools to reach the very top of the world’s sport.
“I’m sure he will continue his development and become one of the greatest players in the world,” Vieira told German newspaper Kicker. “He can end up where he wants to. At one of the world’s biggest clubs.
“Apart from his technique and speed, he has the ability to read the game so can make the right decisions quickly, which is a very unusual quality for his age.”
With the Bundesliga back, Tapsoba is instrumental in Leverkusen’s push to qualify for the Champions League for the second straight season.
And even more long-term, help Burkina Faso qualify for their first-ever senior World Cup.