Pires hopeful of copying Anelka's French return

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The Independent Football

Robert Pires believes he may have a chance of returning to the France team after his fellow international outcast Nicolas Anelka was welcomed back into the fold.

Raymond Domenech, the France coach, has recalled Anelka, the Fenerbahce striker, after a three-year absence, for France's next two friendlies against Costa Rica and Germany.

Pires, who has not been picked since the Arsenal midfielder criticised the coach last year, believes Anelka's return gives him a chance to make his own peace with Domenech. "I am very happy for Nicolas and I hope that one day I will follow in his path," he said. "His cap gives me a real hope to be given the opportunity to play at the World Cup.

"Nico has been good with his club and, therefore, he was selected. Now my responsibility is to display the same performances with my club and live in hope of being called up.

"One month ago people believed Anelka had to be back with France and he deserved it. The only thing I can do is to be equally convincing with Arsenal, although I will respect the coach's choice."

Referring to his criticism of Domenech, Pires said: "I don't have the right to lose the plot, I did that once and I hope the coach will not blame me for that forever. From now on I am going to to live with the hope I will be recalled too."

Joaquin, the Real Betis winger who has been linked with a move to Liverpool, says he is unhappy about being left out of the Spain squad for the World Cup play-off against Slovakia. "I'm sad, hurt and annoyed about not being called up," he said after hearing that Luis Aragones, Spain's coach, had omitted him from the 22-man squad.

"But these things happen in football and it happened to me before with Inaki Saez [Aragones' predecessor]. It is up to me to keep working hard and try to get back in next time."