PARIS - Experienced midfielder Patrick
Vieira was left out of France's World Cup squad on Tuesday.
The former French captain was not included by coach Raymond
Domenech in a provisional 30-man squad for the June 11-July 11
finals in South Africa.
The 33-year-old Manchester City player has won 107 caps and
was a member of the team who lifted the World Cup in 1998 and
won the European Championship two years later.
GEAR: Check out France's WC shirts
Domenech, however, ruled out Vieira, still a gifted player
but not as mobile as in his heyday.
"We have been following Pat for a while, hoping he could
make it to the World Cup," Domenech told a news conference.
"It's a difficult moment. We tried, he did too. It's tough
but comes a time when you need to make a decision".
Domenech, who had promised to name an official 23-man list
but changed his mind at the last minute, faced a selection
headache with several players struggling for fitness, no longer
regular starters at their clubs or simply past their prime.
Striker Karim Benzema, hardly ever in the starting line-up
at Real Madrid, was also left out along with midfielder Samir
Nasri, despite convincing recent performances for Arsenal.
"Karim has talent and he will come back," Domenech said of
Benzema. "He's had a difficult season with Real and we needed
players who were fresh and hungry."
The France coach called up five uncapped players, including
teenage Stade Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila, the big surprise on
the list, and Olympique Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.
A prominent member of the France side for a decade, Vieira
last played for his country in June 2009, wearing the armband in
a 1-0 friendly defeat by Nigeria.
His absence means that for the first time since winning the
World Cup on home soil, France will play a major tournament
without any player from the team who stunned Brazil 3-0 in the
1998 final at Stade de France.
"It was a challenge for me but I will not be able to play
one last major tournament for France," Vieira told Canal Plus
television. "He (Domenech) made a choice on sporting grounds, I
Thierry Henry, now the France captain, was in the 1998 squad
but did not play in the final.
Usually a substitute for Barcelona, Henry, whose infamous
handball helped France qualify for the World Cup at the expense
of Ireland, plays a big role in Domenech's plans.
Defender William Gallas, who has been sidelined by a calf
injury, was included in the provisional squad for the finals,
where the 2006 runners-up will meet hosts South Africa, Mexico
and Uruguay in the group stage.
Domenech, who has faced criticism ever since his side's Euro
2008 flop and is booed by the France fans at every match, has
until June 1 to turn his list into an official 23-strong squad.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris
(Olympique Lyon), Steve Mandanda
(Olympique Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Girondins Bordeaux),
Mickael Landreau (Lille)
Defenders: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester
United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Rod
Fanni (Stade Rennes), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla), Adil Rami
(Lille), Marc Planus (Girondins Bordeaux), Gael Clichy
(Arsenal), Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyon)
Midfielders: Lassana Diarra (Real
Madrid), Alou Diarra
(Girondins Bordeaux), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon), Florent
Malouda (Chelsea), Yoann Gourcuff (Girondins Bordeaux), Abou
Diaby (Arsenal), Yann M'Vila (Stade Rennes)
Forwards: Thierry Henry
(Barcelona), Nicolas Anelka
(Chelsea), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Franck Ribery (Bayern
Munich), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyon), Djibril Cisse
(Panathinaikos), Hatem Ben Arfa (Olympique Marseille), Mathieu
Valbuena (Olympique Marseille), Jimmy Briand (Stade Rennes)
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