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Mar 15, 2007

Newcomers Diaby, Diarra earn France call-up

PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - Arsenal's Abou Diaby and Chelsea's Lassana Diarra were among four newcomers called up by France coach Raymond Domenech on Thursday for a Euro 2008 qualifier against Lithuania and a friendly against Austria later this month.

Domenech, facing many injury worries, selected for the first time midfielders Diaby and Diarra as well as Olympique Marseille teenager Samir Nasri and Monaco striker Frederic Piquionne in his 23-man squad to face Lithuania on March 24 in Kaunas and Austria four days later in Paris.

France have to make do without strikers Thierry Henry, Louis Saha and Franck Ribery as well as midfielder and captain Patrick Vieira, all sidelined with injuries.

Domenech opted for youth rather than experience, including Olympique Lyon's 19-year-old striker Karim Benzema and leaving out seasoned Juventus marksman David Trezeguet.

'The young players in the squad have to be ready to play,' said Domenech, who was expected to rely mostly on familiar faces against Lithuania before experimenting against Austria.

'I already have an idea about those who will start against Lithuania,' the coach told a news conference. 'It's a very important match, if not a crucial one.'

France and Scotland are level on nine points in Group B. Italy are next on seven points and Ukraine have six but with a game in hand.

'Everybody has to realise the World Cup is over and we're in a new phase,' said Domenech, whose team's qualifying campaign has been marred by a 1-0 defeat by Scotland last October at Hampden Park.

'We can easily find ourselves in a situation more complicated than during qualifying for the World Cup,' he added.

France struggled to qualify for last year's World Cup in Germany, where they reached the final, losing to Italy on penalties.

Goalkeepers: Gregory Coupet (Olympique Lyon), Mickael Landreau (Paris St Germain)

Defenders: Lilian Thuram (Barcelona), William Gallas (Arsenal), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Eric Abidal (Olympique Lyon), Julien Escude (Seville), Philippe Mexes (AS Roma), Sebastien Squillaci (Olympique Lyon), Francois Clerc (Olympique Lyon)

Midfielders: Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Rio Mavuba (Girondins Bordeaux), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Lassana Diarra (Chelsea), Samir Nasir (Olympique Marseille)

Strikers: Djibril Cisse (Olympique Marseille), Nicolas Anelka (Bolton), Karim Benzema (Olympique Lyon), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyon), Florent Malouda (Olympique Lyon), Frederic Piquionne (Monaco), Sylvain Wiltord (Olympique Lyon)