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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 6, 2007

France missing defenders for Argentina friendly

PARIS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - France coach Raymond Domenech will be forced to field a makeshift defence for Wednesday's stand-out friendly against Argentina at the Stade de France.

Rock-solid William Gallas of Arsenal is injured, as is his usual replacement Jean-Alain Boumsong, while veteran Lilian Thuram and Philippe Mexes are not fully fit and are set to remain on the bench for the World Cup runners-up.

'Lilian is not well but we wanted to have him with us because his influence is huge in the squad. We hope he can recover in time for (next month's Euro qualifier) Lithuania,' Domenech said.

Olympique Lyon's Sebastien Squillaci is nursing a painful thigh while left back Eric Abidal was replaced at the break of a Ligue 1 match at Troyes on Sunday.

This only leaves Sevilla's Julien Escude and Monaco's Gael Givet to fill the holes while young Olympique Marseille sweeper Julien Rodriguez earned his first call-up on Sunday.

Argentina defender Roberto Ayala, should he play, will win his 107th cap and become his country's most-capped international.

France have not played the South Americans since 1986 in Paris when the French, despite the absence of their inspirational captain Michel Platini, secured a 2-0 victory over the side led by Diego Maradona.

'A match against Argentina is something rare and I know the guys can do great when they take on such great opposition,' Domenech added.

'When we were working on our planning for 2007, we were looking for a big game. A game each player wanted to be part of. A game every fans wanted to come see.

'The result on Wednesday won't matter much. What we want is to test ourselves against one of the best sides in the world. We will play with our eyes set on the future.'

Argentina are attempting to win their first game under coach Alfio Basile, who has returned for a second stint in charge to replace Jose Pekerman who resigned after the World Cup last year.

Basile kicked off with a 3-0 defeat against Brazil and a 2-1 defeat in Spain. He suffered a further blow shortly after the Brazil defeat when playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme announced his international retirement at 28.

Javier Zanetti, surprisingly left out of the World Cup squad, has been recalled and is set to play his first game since the 3-2 defeat by England in a friendly in 2005.

'I always had faith,' Zanetti told the Argentine newspaper Clarin. 'For me, the Argentina national side is very, very important, I have a very great appreciation for the shirt and when you work hard and loyally, the doors always open for you.'

Pablo Aimar has been ruled out through injury while the squad contains uncapped midfielders Fernando Gago and Jonas Gutierrez.

Probable teams:

France: Gregory Coupet; Willy Sagnol, Julien Escude, Gael Givet, Eric Abidal; Franck Ribery, Claude Makelele, Patrick Vieira (captain), Florent Malouda; Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka.

Argentina: Roberto Abbondanzieri; Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Heinze; Fernando Gago, Esteban Cambiasso, Luis Gonzalez, Leandro Somoza; Javier Saviola, Hernan Crespo

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