France Camp Focus – Domenech trims his World Cup squad and issues Gallas an ultimatum

France Coach Raymond Domenech has whittled down the World Cup provisional squad to 24 players dropping six names from the provisional list whilst retaining Arsenal defender William Gallas who has to prove he can recover in time to represent Les Bleus in South Africa 2010. There were no surprises amongst the names cut with Lille’s goalkeeper Mickael Landreau and Adil Rami, Rennes trio Yann M’Vila, Rod Fanni and Jimmy Briand as well as Hatem Ben Arfa from Ligue 1 champions Marseille all excluded by Domenech. None of these players represented Les Bleus more than 11 times and their omission will not affect team harmony or have an adverse effect on the World Cup campaign.

Domenech is concerned about Gunners defender Gallas who has represented France on 78 occasions and will be sorely missed if he cannot recover in time from the injury which has sidelined him since the Champions League first-leg match against Barcelona. Gallas attempted to make a comeback against La Liga champions Barcelona but he was unable to finish the match after succumbing to the injury and has not played since February. In case Gallas cannot prove his fitness Domenech took the precautionary move of keeping uncapped Bordeaux defender Marc Planus as cover but the controversial France tactician will be keeping his fingers crossed Gallas will recover in time because the next most capped defender on the squad is the uncertain Eric Abidal who managed just 17 La Liga appearances this year.

Gallas is the squad’s second highest capped member behind Barcelona striker Thierry Henry. The man who controversially set up France’s goal that eliminated the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA qualifying play-offs will most likely see South Africa 2010 mark the end of his glittering international career spanning 13 years. The Arsenal legend has scored 51 times for his country ad there are rumours that Henry could head to the United States to join a club in Major League Soccer following the World Cup. Henry has found it difficult this season to break into Barca’s starting XI with Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pedro Rodriguez all favoured ahead of him, and he managed just four league goals in 2009/10.

Domenech retained Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena who has yet to earn his first cap for France and has been chosen following a consistent season for his club who won the Ligue 1 championship. Valbuena expressed his delight on his personal website and his selection was backed by Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo who declared: “Domenech has been clever in selecting him. If he wanted a joker, he has one. I’m happy for him; for the club as well, but especially for him. He deserves it. He’s a boy who does not give up, even in adversity.” Anigo added Valbuena is not inferior to Franck Ribery in terms of potential. Valbuena will likely see little playing time in the World Cup despite the unexpected exclusion of Arsenal’s attacking midfielder Samir Nasri. Domenech is obviously going to focus forward play and hope for sparks of creativity from Bayern star Ribery, with Valbuena providing cover for the 27-year-old.

Ribery has returned to form for the Bavarians helping the German club win the DFB-Pokal by scoring one of the four goals in the final, and has been instrumental in leading the team to the Champions League final, but will miss the match in Madrid against Inter through suspension after being sent off again Lyon.

Meanwhile, the French Football Federation are looking to the future and have lined up Laurent Blanc as the next Head Coach when Domenech steps down after the World Cup. Blanc has won plaudits in his three-year stint at Bordeaux leading the side to the league title in 2008/09. The former Barcelona, Inter and Manchester United defender confirmed his departure from the club on Monday and is currently in negotiations with the FFF to succeed Domenech.

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