France boss Raymond Domenech played up the 2010 World Cup selection drama, unveiling his surprise 30-man roster in a primetime television interview with glamorous TF1 presenter Laurence Ferrari.
The decision caused a furor in the French press, which demanded—and got—a more conventional press conference arranged by the Fédération Française de Football (FFF) immediately following the TV program.
It was a fittingly dramatic episode in France’s World Cup run-up, which has included Thierry Henry’s infamous handball against Ireland and an under-age prostitution scandal involving top players Franck Ribéry, Sidney Govou, and Karim Benzema.
Domenech also surprised viewers by announcing a 30-man squad, after promising to select only 23 in an attempt to quell the dramatics of then having to cut seven players by June 1, as required by FIFA.
The biggest names excluded from Domenech’s roster are former captain and midfield enforcer Patrick Vieira, who, despite being clearly past his sell-by date, has been talking up his own chances enough to provoke serious press consideration; Arsenal's Samir Nasri; and Karim Benzema, once France’s most promising striker, but now struggling to get in a game at Real Madrid. Benzema will be unimpressed that he failed to make the cut on a squad that includes nine forwards.
Domenech has often insisted that to be in les Bleus, players must be making regular club appearances, but apparently, what applies to Benzema does not rule out Thierry Henry.
The France captain has been rapidly losing favor at Barcelona, going from starter to substitute to bench-warmer with a speed he no longer possesses on the pitch. Nevertheless, Henry will take his place in his fourth World Cup squad. Other veterans include the predictable back-line of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Eric Abidal, and Patrice Evra.
The only surprises in defence are Marc Planus and Anthony Reveillère, who will fight to make it to South Africa as cover.
Domenech’s preferred midfield anchors Lassana Diarra and Jeremy Toulalan retain their places, while the coach has handed unexpected chances to Rennes’ young midfielder Yann M’Vila and Arsenal’s Abou Diaby. On-form Florent Malouda and France Football French Player of the Year Yoann Gourcuff were never in doubt for les Bleus' midfield.
Along with stalwarts Henry, Ribéry, Govou, and Anelka, Domenech has named some surprises in attack.
Mathieu Valbuena’s success with newly-minted Ligue 1 champions Marseille no doubt helped his case.
His teammate, temperamental wunderkind Hatem Ben Arfa, has pulled out some astonishing performances to redeem a terrible dip in form.
Ex-Liverpool striker Djibril Cissé garnered attention with his prolific goal-scoring for Panathinaikos.
Rennes’ Jimmy Briand received the call-up after just one previous senior appearance.
Domenech named four goalkeepers in the provisional squad, adding Lille’s Mikael Landreau to the Lloris-Mandanda-Carrasso trio widely expected to board the plane for South Africa.
The provisional squad will head for a week-long training camp in the Alps before taking on Costa Rica in a friendly on May 30. France’s final World Cup preparations also include friendlies against Tunisia and China.
Domenech has made it clear that performances in these games will be taken into account as he finalizes les Bleus’ World Cup 2010 selection. "There are still matches left," the controversial French coach said on the FFF Web site. "Until the last minute of the last match, I will still be asking questions."
France 2010 World Cup Roster
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Mickaël Landreau (Lille)
Defenders: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Eric Abidal (Barcelona), William Gallas (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Rod Fanni (Rennes), Adil Rami (Lille), Sébastien Squillaci (Sevilla), Gaël Clichy (Arsenal), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillère (Lyon)
Midfielders: Jérémy Toulalan (Lyon), Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Forwards: Sidney Govou (Lyon), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Djibril Cissé (Panathinaikos), André-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Hatem Ben Arfa (Marseille), Jimmy Briand (Rennes)