France call-ups for Pogba, Varane
France coach Didier Deschamps has included Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and promising Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane in a 24-man squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain.
Former Manchester United youngster Pogba is enjoying an excellent season at Juve, and his call-up comes after he narrowly missed out on a place in the squad for last month's friendly against Germany.
"I have confidence in him," Deschamps said at a press conference in Paris on Thursday. "He has qualities. Even if he can't be considered a first-choice starter for Juventus, he has played 20-odd games in Serie A and six in the Champions League."
Varane has earned rave reviews for his performances for Madrid in recent weeks and is rewarded with the chance to come up against some of his club colleagues when Les Bleus face the reigning world and European champions.
He was initially named in the squad for the Germany friendly before pulling out due to injury. "He has great potential," said Deschamps of the elegant 19-year-old defender who joins Madrid striker Karim Benzema in the squad. "He didn't play much at the start of the season but has been playing regularly since January and has become a first choice in the Real Madrid defence."
Deschamps has also recalled Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy, who played under the France coach when at Marseille last season. Remy is one of ten Premier League-based players in the squad, including the Newcastle quartet of Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko.
France host Georgia on March 22 before Spain come calling four days later, with both games to be played at the Stade de France. Les Bleus currently sit level with Spain at the top of qualifying Group I with seven points after three games and are looking to build on an impressive 1-1 draw in Madrid in October.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia)
Defenders: Gael Clichy (Manchester City/ENG), Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (both Newcastle United/ENG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Christophe Jallet, Mamadou Sakho (both Paris Saint-Germain), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ENG), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko (both Newcastle United/ENG), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Dimitri Payet (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus/ITA), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal/ENG), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER), Loic Remy (Queens Park Rangers/ENG)