Barcelona full-back Eric Abidal was yesterday recalled to France's squad for the first time since their World Cup fiasco, as Les Bleus prepare for Wednesday's friendly against England at Wembley.
Coach Laurent Blanc had previously overlooked the defender since taking charge in August. Abidal had been questioned for his role in France's World Cup debacle, and had been called to account by the French Football Federation (FFF) over his conduct. But the left-back has now returned to the fold.
"He has been playing more lately and has regained a place in Barcelona's starting line-up," Blanc said. "I think he is a lad who can still make a difference." Abidal comes in as Lyons' promising young left-back Aly Cissokho misses out with injury, while Benoît Trémoulinas of Bordeuax has been dropped.
In central midfield, Bordeaux's Alou Diarra has been included despite a domestic suspension while Arsenal's Abou Diaby and Saint-Étienne's Blaise Matuidi are both injured. Lassana Diarra, formerly of Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth, who missed the World Cup with a stomach problem, has been overlooked by Blanc.
There is also no recall for Jérémy Toulalan, who served a one-match ban for his role at the World Cup in the drafting of the statement on behalf of the players which attacked the FFF for suspending Nicolas Anelka. The Chelsea striker was punished for insulting the then coach Raymond Domenech. In scenes that shocked French fans, Domenech was then forced into reading out the statement to the press.
Two of the other players suspended after the World Cup also miss out. Patrice Evra has one match of his five-match ban left to serve, while Franck Ribéry, who was only banned for three games, is injured. Anelka received an 18-match ban but has since retired from international football.
Up front, Blanc has retained his faith in four young strikers who were not part of the World Cup squad. Kevin Gameiro, Dimitri Payet and Loïc Remy, all 23 years old, have been included along with Real Madrid's 22-year-old Karim Benzema, who was controversially omitted by Domenech in the summer. "They are always tough games [against England]," said Blanc. "They will be very motivated to beat us especially since our comprehensive 2-0 win there in 1999." That was the last time England, then in the charge of caretaker manager Howard Wilkinson, entertained France, with Anelka getting both goals.
France squad to play England at Wembley, 17 November
Goalkeepers Carrasso (Bordeaux), Lloris (Lyons), Mandanda (Marseilles)
Defenders Reveillere (Lyons), Clichy (Arsenal), Mexes (Roma), Rami (Lille), Sakho (Paris St Germain), Sagna (Arsenal), Abidal (Barcelona)
Midfielders A Diarra (Bordeaux), Cabaye (Lille), Gourcuff (Lyons), Mvila (Rennes), Nasri (Arsenal)
Forwards Benzema (Real Madrid), Gameiro (Lorient), Hoarau (Paris St Germain), Malouda (Chelsea), Remy (Marseilles), Valbuena (Marseilles), Payet (St Etienne)