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    France

    France coach Didier Deschamps left Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri out of a youthful 23-man squad for this year's FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil.

    Neither Nasri, who has won 41 caps, nor Monaco captain Eric Abidal, capped 67 times, feature in the squad or on the seven-man standby list.

    There are eight players aged under 25 in the squad, including the Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann, who made his international debut against the Netherlands in March.

    France have been drawn in Group E with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.

    France squad

    Goalkeepers:
    Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia)

    Defenders:
    Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Lucas Digne (PSG)

    Midfielders:
    Yohan Cabaye (PSG), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)

    Forwards:
    Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Loic Remy (QPR)

    Standby:
    Remy Cabella (Montpellier), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Loic Perrin (Saint-Etienne), Stephane Ruffier (Saint-Etienne), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Sakho: France can surprise people

    Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho insists France have put their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ problems behind them and head to Brazil looking to prove a point to their critics.

    The tournament in South Africa was a disaster for the French as the players refused to train after coach Raymond Domenech's row with Nicolas Anelka saw the striker expelled from the squad. France came home in disgrace after failing to make it past the group stage four years after reaching the final.

    Issues within the France set-up were raised again this week when Manchester City's Samir Nasri - who was not selected for South Africa - was left out of France's World Cup squad with coach Didier Deschamps suggesting he can be disruptive.

    Sakho, who was not involved in 2010 but has become an integral part of the national side and scored twice to give them victory in their World Cup play-off against Ukraine, wants only to look ahead.

    "I can't talk about South Africa and I prefer not to talk about it as I wasn't there," he told Press Association Sport. "I was on holiday at the time and have no idea what happened. In terms of looking forward, what I can say of France's chances at the World Cup is that we have a squad of quality players. Look at the type of clubs these players play for, they are top clubs in Europe: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus, Arsenal."

    France struggled through qualifying and only just squeezed through that play-off with Ukraine but Sakho said that did not mean they should be underestimated.

    "What I like about football and what really pleases me is the unexpected, when things happen that you don't think can happen. I would like to think we have players who can achieve things at a World Cup.

    "No one thought we were going to turn around the result against Ukraine in the play-offs (trailing 2-0 from the first leg) but we managed to do that, which delighted the people of France and was a real surprise.

    "It is a case of going there (to Brazil) with a quality squad and seeing how far we get. People are not expecting us to do well so maybe it is a case of reversing that."

    Liverpool future
    Sakho has had a mixed start to his career in England having joined Liverpool from Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a £17m deal.

    However, manager Brendan Rodgers sees a long future at the heart of the Reds' defence for the 24-year-old, who has been compared to France greats Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly. The centre-back, however, wants to carve out his own reputation.

    "From an early age I drew inspiration from Thuram, Desailly, defenders like myself. More recently it was (Didier) Drogba. Although he is a striker I have been really impressed with his career path in terms of where he came from and how hard he fought to get where he is.

    "I was lucky enough to become a professional footballer at a very young age so throughout my career I have always tried to speak with players I know who are more experienced to draw positives and learn from them.

    "But what I would like people to remember me for is being Mamadou Sakho. Although I have drawn inspiration from these players I am not trying to copy and I have my own style of play. Off the field I am a laid-back guy, who is cool and calm, but I have this war-like fighting spirit on the field and if you seek out that character you will find it. That fighting spirit is not that far away but if you don't seek it out I'm laid back."

    Sakho could find himself a key player for Liverpool next season, but for now, his focus will be to make his nation proud at Brazil 2014.

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    Mandanda at risk of missing World Cup

    France goalkeeper Steve Mandanda risks missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ after injuring his neck while playing for Marseille yesterday. The 27-year-old was withdrawn after colliding with Guingamp striker Mustapha Yatabare during the first half of an eventual 1-0 victory for Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

    Mandanda has been named alongside keepers Hugo Lloris of Tottenham and Bastia's Mickael Landreau in France's 23-man squad for the Brazil finals, but Stephane Ruffier of Monaco may have to be called up from the reserve list. After confirming Mandanda had suffered a cracked vertebra, club doctor Christophe Baudot moved to allay fears of any neurological damage.

    "Steve has suffered a crack on his first cervical vertebra," Baudot told Marseille's official website. "We are still to learn the length of time he needs to recover, he must go for further tests on Monday. However, there is no neurological problem. He returned home in a medical transport after undergoing tests. He is wearing a neck brace, but he is fine."

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    Ribery: This will be my last World Cup

    France winger Franck Ribery says this summer's FIFA World Cup™ will be his last.

    The 31-year-old, who also appeared for Les Bleus in the 2006 and 2010 editions, has set his sights on a winning farewell to the event. "It will be my last World Cup," he told radio station RTL. "We have to go there to achieve something, to try to win the World Cup, quite simply."

    However, the Bayern Munich star has announced no plans to retire from international football and is expected to be available for UEFA EURO 2016, which France will host.

    Ribery played a starring role in the 2006 tournament in Germany, scoring his first international goal in the second-round win over Spain as France reached the final before losing on penalties to Italy.

    However, 2010 provided a marked contrast as Raymond Domenech's side managed just one point and one goal in a group stage campaign that ended in mutiny against the beleaguered coach.

    Following a dispute between Domenech and striker Nicolas Anelka, the team refused to train and captain Patrice Evra was seen arguing with fitness coach Robert Duverne.

    Ribery was reported to have clash with fellow midfielder Yoann Gourcuff following France's defeat to Mexico, but made an extraordinary unscheduled appearance on TV station Telefoot to dismiss those claims, express his sorrow for France's under-performance and support Domenech's authority.

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    Deschamps: France had all the ingredients

    Didier Deschamps has spoken of his delight after watching his France side beat Norway 4-0.

    Les Bleus ramped up their FIFA World Cup™ preparations with a comfortable win in Paris - a performance which energised everyone in the French game. Deschamps fed off the energy of the crowd and had plenty to smile about afterwards.

    "It was great," he told reporters afterwards. "The stadium was full and we'd had a good week. It materlialised in the match, we had all the ingredients. We had intensity, determination. I was able to give players some playing time and there is a collective desire."

    An experienced campaigner and former World Cup-winning captain, Deschamps knows, though, that plenty of work lies ahead.

    "We cannot be 100 per cent today but the most important thing is to give 100 per cent," he added, hoping that his side will look at the similarities between Norway and World Cup opponents Switzerland.

    "Switzerland have these qualities, playing on the ground," he said. "We have been confronted by this and seen how we defended against it."

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    Didier #Deschamps answers your questions

    Many of you pounced on the chance to put France coach Didier Deschamps on the spot after the French Football Federation and FIFA both invited questions via social media, using the hashtag #AskDeschamps.

    Currently hard at work in Clairefontaine as he continues with France's preparations for Brazil 2014, the former international midfielder was in excellent spirits as he fielded queries from around the world:

    @RossBaskind: What is the best part of being the manager of France?
    Football is my passion. I can't play any more, so… When I decided to become a club coach, there was a chance that I'd one day become national coach, as there is for any coach. My past as a player is strongly linked to the red, white and blue France shirt. For me, it's a source of pride and a privilege to hold this post today. And what makes it enjoyable is being out on the pitch with the players for training sessions. There are also more intimate moments with discussions and player interviews, because building relationships is very important.

    @liam_Wil13: What are you feeling with just a few weeks to go before your first World Cup as a coach?
    Pleasure, excitement, adrenaline... It's still a long way off but it's approaching very fast. Right now is a very enjoyable period because everyone is ready to work hard and prepare well. Later, during the competition, there will be those who play less than others, and maybe not at all, so that's less pleasurable for everyone. But we're already keen to be in Brazil. To experience all this as a coach is nothing compared to what I went through before, though. The greatest job in the world is being a player, by a long way (laughs).

    @PoojaMcFlyLFC: If you could bring any former football player to play for your side, who would it be and why?
    Nobody, because you have to live in your own time. I chose the players who are here, so I have faith in them. There are players who went before and others who will come along afterwards. I'm very happy with the players who are here now and will represent France.

    @FDudz: How heavy Is the cup?
    It's pretty heavy! You wouldn't think so, but it is. Still, that wasn't a problem because I was lifting weights at the time (laughs). Aside from the weight, it's above all a question of what it represents and what it symbolises when you're a top-level player. You can't win anything more special than a World Cup. When I was younger, I saw it on TV, and in '98 I got to hold it in my own hands. There's nothing better and greater than that. On top of that, it was France against Brazil, in France. I lifted the cup because I was captain, and it was a very special moment. I was the first and I'll always be the first, but I hope I'm not the last.

    @Cabrera0499: Given Franck Ribery's loss of form in the second half of the season, can you see him having a successful World Cup?
    He's in good shape and very motivated. As with every player, those with a very high profile can have periods when they're in less good form. Franck had a bit of a tricky end to the season, as did Bayern Munich overall. It's true that missing out on the Ballon d'Or was a big disappointment for him, but I'm not worried about his attitude or his desire to take this squad to a higher level.

    @clemasm92: How do you intend to approach the group games against teams that will be very defensive?
    We already came up against that in the qualifiers. It comes down to a power struggle. If our opponents defend, that means we'll have the ball. It's one of the situations we're preparing for. You can always make predictions beforehand, but you never know how things will turn out. Even teams that start out defensively can cause problems. There are a lot of things you can practise to unsettle teams that defend deep.

    yannH2S @yannH2S: Do you have players in your squad whose personality resembles your own on and/or off the pitch?
    I certainly don't look for that. I have players who have personality, character. I picked them, so I know them. The human side of things is the most important in terms of taking a squad forward, and naturally there are leaders as there are in any squad. But I'm not searching for a player who's a clone of me because I think I'd get on badly with him (laughs).

    @Alexis_Bruzac: Which member of the France team is the best at table football?
    I think Paul Pogba is very good. Antoine Griezmann as well, but they don't all play table football. I watch from time to time, but I don't play very much as I don't have a lot of free time. When I was a player, I played a lot, but I must have lost my touch since then (laughs).

    @JuventusNation: Is Paul Pogba human?
    Yes, he's a human being, but nature has certainly leant a helping hand (laughs). No, no, he's very human. Actually, he's very sensitive, believe it or not. But it has to be said that he has a lot – a lot – of qualities.

    @youl67: How come all the players have started to sing La Marseillaise all of a sudden?
    Really? I hadn't noticed. Did they all sing it on Tuesday? In that case, I'll use the same players in our next game (laughs). For me, this isn't a real debate. The important thing is to go into the event with your own convictions. When we play against other teams, I watch them too and see that there are plenty of players who don't sing. Your own attitude and what you allow to show through via the television cameras are two different things. You're preparing for the game and it's a moment of focus – and if there are players who want to sing, they can sing. That's not what I keep an eye out for. In any case, there are too many journalists and photographers, so I can't even see. I'm not tall enough; I'd have to climb on the bench to see (laughs).

    @Claudel_Kevin: Will [Raphael] Varane and [Karim] Benzema winning the Champions League serve as a plus for the France team?
    For them, yes, without doubt, because they're European champions. Life would have carried on if they'd lost, but they came to Clairefontaine with a smile on their faces. That helps foster a certain dynamic. Laughter is infectious, tears are infectious and so too is winning.

    @Lhomme_En_Noir: Why is it difficult to be relaxed in press conferences?
    On the contrary, I'm pretty relaxed. That said, I'm focused and I'm not there to act the clown, even if I do end up laughing from time to time. I'm very aware that I'm not speaking to a camera but to the people watching their televisions or listening on the radio. I'm preparing for a game, but I'm not stressed. Then it's a question of getting some questions which are more, or less, interesting than others. When I don't want to answer, I answer without answering (laughs).

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    France confident on Ribery fitness

    French playmaker Franck Ribery will be fit to play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said. The 31-year-old Bayern Munich star, a veteran of the Germany 2006 final when France lost to Italy on penalties, has been unable to train with the rest of the squad since joining them last week because of back pain.

    However, Le Graet said that Ribery had been given the all clear after he underwent tests in a hospital in Paris on Saturday and is due to travel to Nice where the French squad is preparing for a friendly with Paraguay on Sunday. "The French team is counting on Ribery," said Le Graet, who was speaking after the annual general meeting of the federation in Paris. "He will resume training very soon. The medical examinations he underwent showed that there is no threat of his missing the World Cup."

    Ribery, who was also part of the squad that exited South Africa 2010 in the first round, had, according to Le Graet, been worried that the problem might be more serious. "He was a little bit anxious because he had felt a sharp pain in the base of the back but there was nothing to show that it was serious," said Le Graet. "He will resume training almost certainly next week."

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    Ribery in as Deschamps unveils France squad

    Franck Ribery, fighting to shrug off a back injury, on Monday figured in coach Didier Deschamps' 23-player FIFA World Cup™ squad. Also included in the final Brazil-bound list submitted to FIFA was Stephane Ruffier, who stepped in last month for injured goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

    Deschamps is hoping to have Bayern Munich winger Ribery back in business in time for Sunday's warm-up against Jamaica. The France forward has missed preps against Norway and Paraguay in the past week. France have been drawn in Group E with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras, their opening opponents in Porte Alegre on 15 June.

    France squad

    Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Stephane Ruffier (Saint-Etienne) Mickael Landreau (Bastia)
    Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United), Lucas Digne (Paris Saint-Germain), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
    Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
    Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (Newcastle United), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.

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    Benzema has no injury regrets

    France striker Karim Benzema said on Friday that he has no regrets risking his 2014 FIFA World Cup™ place by playing for Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League final triumph.

    Benzema, who only attended his first full team training with France on Wednesday, told Madrid newspaper Marca: "It was not a mistake to play and I would do it again." He insisted that he is ready for the challenge in Brazil where France start in Group E against Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.

    The 26-year-old striker aggravated a groin strain playing in Real's 4-1 victory over city rivals Atletico Madrid on 24 May. He told Marca: "I was injured but the main thing is that I took part and helped the team."

    Benzema said he feels the 'pressure' of being France's lead striker, and explained: "I am going to work to be the best. I feel good physically and mentally." Benzema named Spain, FIFA World Cup hosts Brazil and Germany among the favourites to win the final on 13 July. He said France, rebuilding from a disastrous 2010 World Cup for which he wasn't selected, could still make an impact. "It is not a favourite and that is normal. But we have a group of young players who have a big future."

    He said France have been playing better since their narrow 3-2 aggregate play-off victory over Ukraine to reach the finals: "We are going to think about qualifying from our group and after that advance match-by-match."

    France's first match is on 15 June against Honduras.

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    Ribery edges closer to fitness

    France offered an encouraging update on Franck Ribery's FIFA World Cup™ hopes as the Bayern Munich star rejoined training with Didier Deschamps' squad. The 80-cap winger has been struggling with a back problem and has been following an individual training programme, with Friday's session marking his return to group work as he attempts to prove his fitness for the tournament in Brazil.

    Assistant coach Guy Stephan told French radio station RTL: "His progress is going quite well, he's doing a lot better but he still hasn't trained with the team. All the most specific and specialised care possible has been taken, and is still being taken. He is training with the team on Friday. If everything goes well, he will be there. "We will get an idea of what he is capable of doing on the field and with the ball, whether he can keep going on Saturday, Sunday etc. It is an important step."

    While Ribery rejoins his team-mates, though, Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier will be absent having scans on a thigh injury which forced an early end to his session on Thursday. The playmaker missed much of the Ligue 1 run-in with a groin problem and limped off from Les Bleus' training field at Clairefontaine, with the adductor muscle reported to be causing the problem this time. Should Grenier or Ribery be forced to sit out the World Cup, Deschamps has options among his seven-man replacement list. Grenier's club-mate Maxime Gonalons or Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin could step into midfield, with Montpellier's Remy Cabella or another Lyon player, Alexandre Lacazette, able to operate on the wings.

    The former Marseille coach has already been forced into one change to his original squad, with injured Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda replaced by St Etienne's Stephane Ruffier.

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