France take on Costa Rica in World Cup warm-up
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The French national football team begins Wednesday a series of friendly matches in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. They take on lightweight Costa Rica before scheduled matches against Tunisia and China.
AFP - France coach Raymond Domenech confirmed on Tuesday that central defender William Gallas was still not 100 percent sure of his World Cup place despite signs to the contrary.
Gallas is recovering from a calf injury and went into France's week-long training camp in Tignes with doubts he could make the 23-man squad for the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa.
Domenech revealed a 23-man squad late on Monday which included the Arsenal defender, however the Frenchman said that until June 1 - when all federations must submit their final teams to FIFA - nothing was definitive.
"There's still a question mark over his calf but nothing is definitive until June 1," said Domenech.
"I was really pessimistic (over Gallas) a week ago. I'm not overflowing with optimism right now but so far in training he's been pretty good, he can accelerate and change direction no problem.
"He's been in quite critical situations, and that's been reassuring."
Domenech admitted that his squad had arrived at the French ski resort under a shroud of uncertainty, but that incidents like Gallas crashing a karting buggy last week had helped gel the squad.
"It gave everybody a good laugh, we needed something to relax us all a little," said Domenech.
Striker Nicolas Anelka agreed: "Honestly, we had a really good time out there on the buggies. And that kind of thing happens to William quite often."
In revealing his squad on Monday, Domenech hands World Cup debuts to Bordeaux defender Marc Planus and Marseille winger Mathieu Valbuena.
Lyon's Hugo Lloris keeps his place in goal, with Steve Mandanda of Marseille his back-up and Bordeaux's Cedric Carrasso at number three.
While Gallas remains uncertain on paper, the Arsenal man has looked strong in training and will play part of France's friendly against Costa Rica on Wednesday.
Joining him in central defence is Bordeaux's Eric Abidal, with Planus and Sebastian Squillaci of Sevilla as back-ups.
In theory, Bakary Sagna of Arsenal will occupy the right side of defence with Patrice Evra of Manchester United on the left. Their potential replacements will be Gael Clichy of Arsenal and Lyon's Anthony Reveillere.
In what is seen as a risky move, Domenech will head to South Africa with only three real defensive midfielders in Jerermy Toulalan, Alou Diarra and Abou Diaby.
During their week in Tignes Domenech has experimented with a 4-3-3, a system that, with Diarra and Diaby on the bench, allows Toulalan to feed playmaker Yoann Gourcuff of Bordeaux and Chelsea left winger Florent Malouda as part of a a central midfield triangle.
"It's an interesting formation," said Domenech. "It gives us more attacking guarantees but also leaves us more exposed at the back."
Despite his topsy-turvy season, Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery is virtually assured of a starting place up front although the inclusion of Valbuena could make it harder for the Bayern Munich forward.
Barcelona striker Thierry Henry meanwhile appears to have escaped paying the price for a lack of playing time at the Spanish club, although he is unlikely to be used on the left.
Domenech should use the France captain in a more central striking role, while Anelka - a World Cup reject in 1998, 2002 and 2006 - will get the chance to make his debut at the age of 31.
The other strikers in Domenech's list are Djibril Cisse of Panathinaikos, Toulouse's Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Sidney Govou of Lyon.
Domenech said Tuesday their altitude training camp had started under a cloud of uncertainty, but the Frenchman said his squad had now taken control of the situation.
"We've had great weather, great conditions and these are important, as much for the training field as for our enjoyment off it," he said.
"What the players have showed in training has been promising. I would say the group is really coming together.
"Things were a bit uncertain at the start but the squad has really pulled itself together."
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: William Gallas (Arsenal/ENG), Eric Abidal (Barcelona/ESP), Bakary Sagna (Arsenal/ENG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Gael Clichy (Arsenal/ENG), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla/ESP)
Midfielders: Abou Diaby (Arsenal/ENG), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Florent Malouda (Chelsea/ENG), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon)
Strikers: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea/ENG), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos/GRE), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Barcelona/ESP), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
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