France coach Raymond Domenech recalled Manchester United striker Louis Saha, picked Lyon’s young defender Francois Clerc and overlooked midfielder Franck Ribery for the World Cup warm-up match against Slovakia in Paris on March 1.
Clerc, 22, earned his first call-up for Les Bleus for his performances with the French champions but Marseille playmaker Ribery, widely seen as the long-term replacement for Zinedine Zidane, is kept waiting because of his club’s disappointing season.
“We badly need defenders like Francois Clerc and we don’t have many available at the moment,” Domenech said. “He has had some great games recently.
“He is still young, but he hasn’t got carried away by his good performances and, for me, that means he is certain to become a great player.”
Roma defender Philippe Mexes and Manchester United striker Louis Saha return to the squad. Mexes has not played for France shirt since a 5-0 defeat of New Zealand in the 2003 Confederations Cup while Saha was last picked in a France squad in early 2005.
“Mexes was in the squad before I became coach. We all know what he is worth,” Domenech said. “He has had a few problems to sort out with his club.
“For quite some time he was far from his best, which was why I didn’t pick him. Now things are going better for him and it’s only normal for him to be back with us.”
Fenerbahce forward Nicolas Anelka is in the squad again after returning to the France fold in November. He is now almost certain to be among the 23 players picked for the World Cup.
“I don’t have to explain myself about Anelka. He is one of our strikers and there was no obvious reason why he should be left out,” Domenech said.
Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Olympique Marseille), Gregory Coupet (Olympique Lyon)
Defenders: Eric Abidal (Olympique Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle), Francois Clerc (Olympique Lyon), William Gallas (Chelsea), Philippe Mexes (AS Roma), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Lilian Thuram (Juventus)
Midfielders: Vikash Dhorasoo (Paris St Germain), Alou Diarra (Racing Lens), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Olympique Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Juventus), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Nicolas Anelka (Fenerbahce), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Louis Saha (Manchester United), David Trezeguet (Juventus), Sylvain Wiltord (Olympique Lyon)