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Varane, Pogba among France inclusions

Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba have been named in the France squad ahead of next week’s 2013 World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain.

Real Madrid defender Varane received widespread acclaim from much of the footballing world following impressive displays against Barcelona and Manchester United over the past few weeks and receives his third call-up, although has yet to be capped.

Meanwhile, his fellow 19-year-old has been in similarly prodigious form since his summer move to Juventus from Manchester United, and in the wake of his maiden bow, France coach Didier Deschamps explained the duo’s inclusion.

“(Varane) has not featured in a single minute with the senior side yet, but I consider him ready to play,” Deschamps said.

“(Pogba) is often used as a runner, but when he is allowed to advance forward, he can strike the ball with venom. He is versatile enough to play in any midfield position.”

Deschamps then dropped his biggest hint yet that stoppers Varane, Laurent Koscielny, Mamadou Sakho and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa would be his first-choice centre-back quartet for the foreseeable future, while he backed Karim Benzema to rediscover his goalscoring touch.

“Arsenal performed at a high level (in the Champions League against Bayern Munich). Laurent (Koscielny)’s display caught my eye. He had good legs,” he added.

“I have no problems with (Mamadou Sakho’s) playing time. He plays most of PSG’s games, although I’d prefer it if he played week in week out.

“It’s likely that I will stick with these four central defenders (referring to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa as the fourth man).

“Everyone can criticise (Karim Benzema’s) performance but his quality and potential will always be there. He needs just a goal, and he has my trust. France need Benzema at his best.”

The Euro 2000 winner then commented on the absences of midfield pair Abou Diaby – currently sidelined with a calf injury – and Toulouse’s Aurelien Capoue, before calling for complete focus on next Friday’s visit of Georgia.

“This is not punishment (for Capoue), but he has not been good enough with his club. There is always competition for places,” Deschamps said.

“(Abou Diaby) has gone three weeks without playing, it’s complicated. There are currently too many uncertainties with him.

“The most important fixture is against Georgia. We must be focused on this game so we can get to 10 points. We met the best team in the world (Spain) in October, and we will do so again.”

France squad:
Goalkeepers: Mickael Landreau, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda
Defenders: Gael Clichy, Mathieu Debuchy, Patrice Evra, Christophe Jallet, Laurent Koscielny, Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Maxime Gonalons, Blaise Matuidi, Dimitri Payet, Paul Pogba, Franck Ribery, Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Valbuena
Attackers: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Bafetimbi Gomis, Jeremy Menez, Loic Remy

Thu 14 March, 2013
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