France coach’s turmoil

France coach Raymond Domenech will
not take striker Karim Benzema to the World Cup in South Africa, but says it
has nothing to do with the player’s alleged involvement in a prostitution
investigation.

”I’m only thinking about football
and about what the players want to give on the pitch,” Domenech said the day
his preliminary World Cup roster was announced. ”He is a young player and he
still can dream. I hope he will fight to come back to the team soon.”

France, which narrowly qualified in
a playoff against Ireland after a missed handball led to a controversial goal,
is in Group A with the host South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay.

Instead of Benzema, who scored
eight goals for Real Madrid this season, Domenech chose the colourful Djibril
Cisse, who scored 29 goals this season for Panathinaikos, and Tolouse forward
Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has scored four goals in only 10 games for France.
Cisse, who often shaves bizarre designs into his hair, which is often dyed,
broke his leg in a warm-up match before the last World Cup.

Domenech, whose tactics and
personnel decisions have often been met with intense scrutiny in France, chose
five players who have never before played for Les Bleus: goalkeeper Cedric
Carrasso, defenders Marc Planus and Adil Rami, midfielder Yann M’Vila and
winger Mathieu Valbuena.

Domenech has warned William Gallas
he will be cut from France’s 30-man provisional World Cup squad if he is unable
to prove his fitness. The 32-year-old centre-back missed the Premier League
run-in with Arsenal after suffering a leg injury in March and, although he was
last night named in Domenech’s initial party, the coach has offered no
assurances he will remain in the final 23-man group unless he is fully fit.

Cisse

Cisse’s form is vital for France’s success
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