Shamed World Cup skipper Evra sidelined for Brazil friendly
French coach Laurent Blanc denies political pressure in his decision to drop former skipper Patrice Evra from Les Bleus’ match against Brazil on February 9. Evra spearheaded a World Cup walkout after Nicolas Anelka was benched.
AFP - France coach Laurent Blanc on Thursday omitted former skipper Patrice Evra from his squad to face Brazil in a February 9 friendly at Stade de France - but insisted his reasons were purely tactical.
Manchester United defender Evra had been available for selection after serving a five-match suspension following his leading role in last summer's player strike during the World Cup at Knysna in South Africa.
But Blanc had been under some pressure to prolong his spell in the cold after French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno demanded last week the World Cup rebels apologise before donning the national shirt again.
Blanc nonetheless insisted he would make his own decision and not succumb to outside pressure on who he should and should not select.
"I made my choice according to sporting criteria," Blanc insisted. There is a lot of competition for that post involving players who play for great clubs. I base my criteria on sporting qualities and take into account Eric Abidal's showing in the last game which was very good."
Blanc added that "the behaviour of the 23 (in South Africa), not just that of Evra, was unworthy. There followed bans - and they have been served. What interests me is putting together the best team possible."
He added: "The door remains open."
While leaving out Evra - fellow rebel Franck Ribery has also served a ban but is currently injured - Blanc called Arsenal central defender Laurent Koscielny into the squad for the first time.
Koscielny, who joined the Gunners last year from Lorient, had been the subject of overtures from the Polish Federation - his grandfather is Polish - but has recently insisted his dream is to don the blue of France, where the 25-year-old was born.
Evra and Ribery had been ringleaders in the player mutiny against Blanc's predecessor Raymond Domenech after he was involved in a dressing room bust-up with striker Nicolas Anelka.
Several senior players revolted after the French delegation sent Anelka home in disgrace.
Jouanno, a former karate champion, demanded a public apology from the mutineers, who were condemned by politicians as having brought shame on the nation.
"You cannot bring shame on France and then expect to play for the national team again," she insisted, while conceding that in practice, "apart from speaking out, I can't do anything about it."
Blanc commented that he would pick who he likes while noting that Jouannou "has the right to say what she wants and to have her opinion."
Blanc said he hoped that the memories of the strike would die down over time "but each time the French squad gets together the same old stories return."
French Football Federation chairman Fernand Duchaussoy had said prior to Jouannou's comments that Evra, having served a five-match ban, had "completed his suspension" and was therefore liable to rejoin the squad if Blanc wished to include him.
"It's not a life sentence - that does not exist in football," said Duchaussoy.
Not selecting Evra does have a sporting logic to it -- since taking charge, Blanc has been building a defensive bloc including Eric Abidal, who normally might expect to lose out to Evra at left back.
Blanc will likely feel that if he keeps faith with Abidal it would be difficult to have a former captain in the ranks who would be sitting on the bench. Gael Clichy of Arsenal will therefore act as Abidal's back-up against the Brazilians.
Koscielny meanwhile is likely to act as second fiddle to current central defensive pair Philippe Mexes of Roma and Lille's Adil Rami.
Saint Etienne striker Dimitri Payet has been left out despite winning three caps since Blanc took the helm. In recent weeks he has been in the headlines primarily for trying to force a move - without success - to Paris Saint Germain.
Injured recent regulars include Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena and Arsenal star Samir Nasri.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: Bakary Sagna (Arsenal/ENG), Adil Rami (Lille), Philippe Mexes (AS Roma/ITA), Mamadou Sakho (Paris SG), Gael Clichy (Arsenal/ENG), Eric Abidal (Barcelona/ESP), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ENG)
Midfielders: Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yann Mvila (Rennes), Florent Malouda (Chelsea/ENG), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon), Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Abou Diaby (Arsenal/ENG), Blaise Matuidi (Saint-Etienne), Jeremy Menez (AS Roma/ITA)
Strikers: Kevin Gameiro (Lorient), Guillaume Hoarau (Paris SG), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Loic Remy (Marseille)