France play Nigeria at St Etienne on Tuesday in a friendly which coach Raymond Domenech hopes will settle the nerves of a recently inconsistent French national side.
Chelsea star Florent Malouda seems set for a return for “Les Bleus” in what would represent a return from the cold for the unpredictable midfielder who has not played for his country since last year when he appeared to criticise Domenech in a newspaper interview.
But Domenech insisted his non-selection was all to do with form and nothing personal.
“At one stage everyone was calling on him to play but I didn’t think he was good enough,” Domenech told L’Equipe newspaper.
“But I am following his career and watching his matches.”
Malouda, who has won 44 caps for France, has regained his form under Guus Hiddink at Chelsea and played a big role in the London club’s 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Everton on the weekend.
Patrick Viera is also expected to once again take the captain’s armband. The Inter Milan midfielder struggled with injury in the recently-ended Italian season, playing just 19 times as Inter marched to the Serie A title.
Fellow stalwart Thierry Henry, however, has been ruled out of the game due to a knee injury sustained last month but which he managed well enough to play in Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome last week.
After another friendly on June 5 against Turkey at Lyon, France resume their 2010 World Cup campaign on August 19 against the Faroe Islands. The “Bleus” currently lag behind Serbia in Group 7 in the qualifying phase.
The Nigerian squad will see the St Etienne showdown as an opportunity to showcase their skills in the European soccer’s inter-season recruitment period.
Marseille defender Taye Ismaila Taiwo is expected to be a cornerstone for the Super Eagles.
The athletic 24-year-old from Lagos has been the target of offers from English Premiership clubs but stated last month he would stay at Marseille.
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