Patrice Evra selected in France squad
Patrice Evra has been included in the France squad for Les Bleus' World Cup playoff with Ukraine, despite calls for him to be dropped.
Evra, 32, caused uproar by fiercely criticising four notable media pundits, including 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner Bixente Lizarazu, in a TF1 interview broadcast last month, leading to calls for him to be frozen out of the squad.
However, France coach Didier Deschamps has chosen the Manchester United defender for the two legged encounter on Nov. 15 and 19.
"We're focused on a very important objective: qualifying for the World Cup. That's the only thing we have in mind," Deschamps told the press at the French Football Federation's HQ in Paris, where he and FFF president Noel Le Graet met Evra last month following the interview.
"I won't tell you what I told him. It's none of your business. Patrice Evra was available for selection. I chose to pick him. Within the squad, our sole thought is to remain focused on our objective."
Lille captain Rio Mavuba is in line to make his first appearance for his country since September 2012 after underpinning his club's excellent start to the Ligue 1 season.
Arsenal's Bacary Sagna, who missed last month's friendly with Australia and the final group-stage qualifier with Finland through injury, returns in place of Marseille's Rod Fanni, while third-choice goalkeeper Mickael Landreau is also back after a hamstring injury.
Though goals from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye secured Laurent Blanc's France side a 2-0 win over Ukraine at Euro 2012, Deschamps remains cautious, particularly with Mihail Fomenko's men unbeaten in their last seven qualifiers.
"We can have confidence in ourselves, in our strength. We mustn't think that we've qualified before we actually have. Ukraine are a quality team, who are on a good run. It's not going to be simple."
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia)
Defenders: Eric Abidal (Monaco), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Samir Nasri (Manchester City), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Loic Remy (Newcastle United)