Les Bleus: Thauvin, Fekir in, Payet out
On Thursday night, France coach Didier Deschamps announced his 23-man for World Cup squad, naming Ligue 1 Conforama stars Nabil Fekir (OL) and Florian Thauvin (OM) but unable to include the injured Dimitri Payet (OM).
Deschamps' list featured mainly familiar faces but notable was his inclusion of Ligue 1 Conforama attacking stars Florian Thauvin (22 goals, 11 assists) and Nabil Fekir, both of whom have had excellent seasons and played key roles as their clubs fight it out for the top spots in France's top flight.
Left-back Lucas Hernandez, a Europa League winner with Atlético Madrid, earned his second call-up while fit-again full-backs Djibril Sidibé and Benjamin Mendy were named along with FC Sevilla defensive midfielder Steven Nzonzi.
"A team is not just about stars; Steven is not a creative genius but he is very effective in his role," explained the France boss, who in his playing days was described by France teammate Eric Cantona as 'a water carrier'. "That's what you need in the position he plays in."
Payet's dream dashed
Meanwhile there was some surprise at Deschamps' decision not to include Olympique de Marseille star Dimitri Payet, who has had a stellar season but who aggravated a hamstring injury in Wednesday night's UEFA Europa League final.
"Fully fit, he was a serious candidate for a place in the 23-man squad, but he played the first half of the final and aggravated an injury," explained Deschamps, who will have three friendlies, against Ireland, Italy and the USA in which to prepare before Les Bleus' World Cup campaign kicks off against Australia in Kazan on June 16. "For that kind of injury, you need three weeks before you can play again. But, as it's a muscular injury there is a big risk of recidivism."
Deschamps also announced a list of 11 reservists - among them Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette, but not Payet - who will be eligible for call-up before June 4 should any serious injuries hit the main squad.
The 23-man squad:
'Keepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ENG), Steve Mandanda (OM), Alphonse Areola (PSG).
Defenders: Djibril Sidibé (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart/GER), Samuel Umtiti (FC Barcelona), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Adil Rami (OM), Benjamin Mendy (Man. City/ENG), Lucas Hernandez (Atlético de Madrid/ESP).
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Man. United/ENG), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich/GER), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus Turin/ITA), Ngolo Kanté (Chelsea/ENG), Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla FC/ESP)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid/ESP), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea/ENG), Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Ousmane Dembélé (FC Barcelona/ESP), Florian Thauvin (OM), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco).
The 11 reservists
Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla FC), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Benoît Costil (Bordeaux), Mathieu Debuchy (Saint-Etienne), Lucas Digne (FC Barcelona), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Anthony Martial (Man. United), Adrien Rabiot (PSG), Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham), Kurt Zouma (Stoke City).