Summary

  • Hector made Germany debut in November 2014.
  • Had made Bundesliga bow three months earlier.
  • Scored decisive penalty in EURO win over Italy.

Six years ago, he was playing amateur football. In 2014, he watched Germany win the World Cup from his sofa. On Thursday, Jonas Hector will be on the pitch trying to earn his nation a place in the final of UEFA EURO 2016.

It is only a five-hour drive from Cologne to Paris where Hector would step out as part of Joachim Löw's line-up on 10 July should Germany see off France in Thursday's semi-final at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

Yet, any thought the 1. FC Köln left-back might have had of being there to see the Nationalmannschaft add a European title to the world crown he was watching them claim while in his living room two years ago would only have been as a fan in the Stade de France stands.

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Even after joining Köln in 2012, Hector struggled to make his way into the professional ranks, and it was only when then-coach Holger Stanislawski put his faith in him ahead of the 2013/14 campaign that the defender's Hollywood rise to stardom began.

Hector (l.) has gone from international newboy to established first-teamer in less than two years.

As the Billy Goats eased to the top of the second division table to eventually return to the Bundesliga, Hector's stock skyrocketed, and just three months after his first top-flight game, he was already being called up by Löw.

He came off the bench to replace Erik Durm against Gibraltar in November 2014, and has since supplanted the Borussia Dortmund man, himself part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad, on a permanent basis.

The unassuming full-back, who combines his football with university studies, has also won his place in German football history after scoring the decisive penalty against Italy in the EURO 2016 quarter-final.

"I had absolutely not counted on having to step up as the ninth shooter," he admitted after beating the legendary Gianluigi Buffon. "But I had to do that all the same. In those moments, you have to take your heart in your hands and go for it." France have been warned...