France turn off Flamini's engine
Thursday 29 May 2008
Mathieu Flamini's successful season in the engine room of Arsenal's midfield has counted for nothing when it comes to the European Championship.
Despite his sterling work for the Gunners, Flamini has been left out of Raymond Domenech's 23-man squad, as has Djibril Cissé, who has once again missed out on a major tournament for France after being omitted in favour of the St Etienne striker Bafetimbi Gomis. The former Liverpool forward Cissé, who missed the 2006 World Cup after breaking his leg in a warm-up game, has been omitted despite the fact that Gomis, 22, has only one cap.
The seemingly Arsenal-bound Marseilles youngster Samir Nasri has been preferred to the Lyons protégé Hatem Ben Arfa, while the uncapped goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, Nasri's club team-mate, is picked ahead of Paris St-Germain's Mickaël Landreau.
In defence, the Lyons pair Jean-Alain Boumsong and Sébastien Squillaci have been included ahead of Julien Escude and the injured Philippe Mexès. Apart from the high number of inexperienced players in the squad, the big surprise is Domenech's decision to name only one genuine left-winger, in the shape of Chelsea's Florent Malouda.
France kick off their campaign against Romania on 9 June before facing the Netherlands and Italy in their remaining Group C fixtures.
The Fiorentina midfielder Riccardo Montolivo was yesterday left out of Italy's Euro 2008 squad. The Italy coach Roberto Donadoni picked a 24-man squad last week and waited until the Uefa deadline to name the one player he had to drop.
"It has been a difficult choice, made solely for numerical reasons," Donadoni said at Italy's training base outside Florence. "Montolivo has conducted himself really well in recent days and there isn't a problem with his fitness."
Montolivo, who has one cap, had been expected to be the unlucky player having been a surprise pick in the initial squad. Italy's Massimo Ambrosini said the 23-year-old should not be too downhearted and expressed surprise that his new Milan team-mate Flamini had failed to make the France squad. "They are young and have their futures ahead of them in the national team," the midfielder said.
The Udinese striker Fabio Quagliarella and Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani had been the other likely contenders to be left out by Donadoni. Midfielder Simone Perrotta has also recovered from a slight calf problem which briefly threatened his place. Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta and Milan right back Massimo Oddo were left out of the original squad because of injury concerns.
The world champions face Belgium in a friendly in Florence tomorrow as they prepare for Euro 2008.
The Germany coach Joachim Loew has left out the inexperienced trio of Marko Marin, Jermaine Jones and Patrick Helmes from his final 23-man squad. Marin, the 19-year-old Borussia Moenchengladbach winger, had yet to win his first cap when he was named in Loew's provisional squad earlier this month, while Schalke midfielder Jones and Cologne striker Helmes had played just five times between them.
The Greece coach Otto Rehhagel has kept faith with the players that took the European champions to Euro 2008 in naming his 23-man squad. Only the AEK Athens central defender Socratis Papastathopoulos was left out of the squad that travelled to Budapest for the friendly against Hungary last Saturday.
The squad features seven of the team that started the final against Portugal four years ago, including the midfielder Angelos Basinas, who will captain the side in Austria and Switzerland. Basinas hobbled off with an ankle injury in the 3-2 defeat by Hungary but will be fit enough to face Sweden in their opening game on 10 June.
Veteran goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis was also a casualty in Budapest, coming off with a pulled thigh muscle, but he will also be fit to face the Swedes.
Turkey coach Fatih Terim has withdrawn striker Halil Altintop, midfielder Yildiray Basturk and defender Ibrahim Kas from his final squad for Euro 2008. Terim said yesterday: "We do not think badly of these three footballers. They are part of us."
The greatest surprise in the 26-man provisional squad named earlier this month had been the omission of veteran striker Hakan Sukur. Defender Gokhan Gonul had already been withdrawn from the provisional squad due to injury with Emre Gungor stepping up.
Turkey, who play their final warm-up match against Finland tonight, have been drawn in Group A alongside Portugal, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
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