Tactics & Analysis 3 days ago
Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa is the eye-catching name among the initial list of 12 overseas-based players selected for France's Euro 2012 training squad.
Ben Arfa has not featured at all in qualification for this summer's tournament, his last international appearance coming in August 2010 - shortly before he broke his leg playing against Manchester City. That cap, Ben Arfa's eighth, came in coach Laurent Blanc's first match in charge against Norway, in which the former Bordeaux boss dropped all the players involved in Les Bleus' atrocious World Cup campaign in South Africa.
Blanc told Eurosport: "We have monitored him and can count on him for the knockout stages of the Euro. Sadly after a dispute with Marseille, when I told him to be calm, he left for Newcastle where he suffered a terrible injury. I have watched him play again and watched him recuperating at Clairefontaine (national academy); he took some time to come back but his talent was always there and always will be, and he has shown more maturity this season.''
Ben Arfa is joined on the list by seven other English-based players, including club-mate Yohan Cabaye and Manchester City pair Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy. Centre-halves Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) and Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra and Chelsea winger Florent Malouda are also among those called up.
Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema provide exciting attacking options while Adil Rami of Valencia and AC Milan's Philippe Mexes join Koscielny and Kaboul among the central defensive options. But there is no place for Rami's colleague at the Mestalla, Jeremy Mathieu, despite the adventurous full-back's impressive displays in the Primera Division this season.
Blanc earlier admitted his inexperienced midfield is an area of concern as he puts together his squad for next month's event in Poland and Ukraine. The likes of Cabaye, Marseille's Morgan Amalfitano and Arsenal target Yann M'Vila of Rennes - the latter two expected to feature on a second list of home-based players, to be released next Tuesday - have little real experience.
Blanc told L'Equipe: "I almost have my list of 23. My final hesitation concerns a long-term problem - the midfield is suffering from a lack of leadership and a lack of players with international experience. "There are players who have the potential to be in the France team - but players who have proven they can really be a part of it, there are very few.''
Blanc's final 23-man squad for the championship must be submitted to UEFA by May 29.