Zidane and Makelele return for France

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The Independent Football

"I have decided to come back for Les Bleus," Zidane said yesterday on his official website.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid midfielder, who helped France win the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, retired from the international game after last summer's European Championship in Portugal.

Zidane, who has won 93 caps and scored 26 goals for France, will make his comeback in a friendly against the Ivory Coast on 17 August and is available for crucial World Cup qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and the Republic of Ireland next month.

"The French team has given me so much and I want to help it," Zidane said. "I told myself I did not have much time left in soccer, and I want to profit from it to the maximum."

Makelele also announced his return to the national side yesterday. Like Zidane, the 32-year-old Chelsea midfielder retired from international football after France were beaten by Greece in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals.

"I am very satisfied that the French team can once again count on Zinedine Zidane and Claude Makelele ... very talented players who play at the highest level for their clubs," the France coach, Raymond Domenech, said.

France have four qualifying matches remaining as they attempt to reach next year's World Cup finals in Germany. However, they are currently only fourth in Group Four, three points behind the leaders, the Republic of Ireland.

When he took over as France coach in July last year, Domenech failed to persuade Zidane to stay. Zidane departed along with three other established figures: Makelele, Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly.

Domenech went to see Zidane in Spain and convinced him to come back. "Raymond Domenech came to see me two or three times in Madrid and he told me what he expected from me," Zidane said.

"We had a long discussion," he added. "I have always said the French team is the most important thing that has happened to me. I thought deeply about it and I want to play for France again."

Zidane scored with two headers in the 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil at the Stade de France, Paris in 1998. In 2000, he starred again as France won its second European Championship - scoring a penalty to beat Portugal in the semi-finals.

Since Domenech took over, the side has won only three of 10 games, drawing seven and scoring only nine goals. In qualifying for the 2006 World Cup finals, they have drawn 0-0 at home to Israel, Ireland and Switzerland, won 2-0 away at the Faroe Islands and Cyprus, and drawn 1-1 away to Israel.