Diaby, Menez return to France squad

29 August 2012 03:48

France coach Didier Deschamps unveiled his 23-man squad on Wednesday for next month's 2014 World Cup qualifying Group I double-header against Finland and Belarus.

Among the names returning to the international fold is injury-prone Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, who is called up for the first time since June last year after convincing Deschamps of his fitness.

"Diaby has enormous potential. He has endured a disastrous year because of injury, he has hardly played," said the recently-appointed France coach at a press conference in Paris.

"But now he has had a full pre-season and has had a full 90 minutes under his belt.

"He is a player with a very interesting profile, even if there will always be questions about his physical fragility. I hope he is on the right road."

In addition, Paris Saint-Germain winger Jeremy Menez returns after serving a one-match ban imposed by the French Football Federation (FFF) as a punishment for his behaviour during the Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat to Spain in June.

Menez sat out the goalless draw against Uruguay in Le Havre on August 15 in the new coach's first game at the helm, but now Deschamps is willing to give the 25-year-old another chance.

"He has some imperfections that he needs to try and wipe out," said Deschamps.

"He has potential, and is capable of making a difference if he is willing to work with the rest of the group."

Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri serves the second of a three-game ban handed down by the FFF after an altercation with the media at Euro 2012, while neither Yann M'Vila of Rennes nor Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa -- who were handed a warning by the FFF for their conduct at the Euros -- are included.

Ben Arfa endured a difficult relationship with Deschamps when the two worked together at Marseille, but the coach indicated that the player's absence was nothing personal.

"I am not his coach on a daily basis," he said. "I know his qualities as a person and as a footballer. But I have choices to make.

"I wouldn't pre-select him if I didn't think he was capable of playing for France again. But, based on the choices I have made at this moment, he is not in the list."

Adil Rami, Anthony Reveillere and Yohan Cabaye all return after missing the Uruguay draw, while Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau is called up for the first time in nearly five years.

In addition, Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny is named after having to pull out of the Uruguay friendly because of injury.

France face Finland in Helsinki on Friday, September 7, before hosting Belarus at the Stade de France on September 11.

Lea Bleus will also face Spain and Georgia in Group I.


Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Lille)

Defenders: Christophe Jallet, Mamadou Sakho (both Paris Saint-Germain), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier), Gael Clichy (Manchester City/ENG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ENG), Adil Rami (Valencia/ESP), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon)

Midfielders: Etienne Capoue (Toulouse), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United/ENG), Abou Diaby (Arsenal/ENG), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal/ENG), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon)

Source: AFP