Vieira left out of France World Cup squad

Experienced midfielder Patrick Vieira was left out of France`s World Cup squad on Tuesday.

Last Updated: May 12, 2010, 10:47 AM IST

Paris: Experienced midfielder Patrick Vieira was left out of France`s World Cup squad on Tuesday.

The former French captain was not included by coach Raymond Domenech in a provisional 30-man squad for the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa.

The 33-year-old Manchester City player has won 107 caps and was a member of the team who lifted the World Cup in 1998 and won the European Championship two years later.

Domenech, however, ruled out Vieira, still a gifted player but not as mobile as in his heyday.

"We have been following Pat for a while, hoping he could make it to the World Cup," Domenech told a news conference.

"It`s a difficult moment. We tried, he did too. It`s tough but comes a time when you need to make a decision".

Domenech, who had promised to name an official 23-man list but changed his mind at the last minute, faced a selection headache with several players struggling for fitness, no longer regular starters at their clubs or simply past their prime.

Striker Karim Benzema, hardly ever in the starting line-up at Real Madrid, was also left out along with midfielder Samir Nasri, despite convincing recent performances for Arsenal.

"Karim has talent and he will come back," Domenech said of Benzema. "He`s had a difficult season with Real and we needed players who were fresh and hungry."

Uncapped Players

The France coach called up five uncapped players, including teenage Stade Rennes midfielder Yann M`Vila, the big surprise on the list, and Olympique Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.

A prominent member of the France side for a decade, Vieira last played for his country in June 2009, wearing the armband in a 1-0 friendly defeat by Nigeria.

His absence means that for the first time since winning the World Cup on home soil, France will play a major tournament without any player from the team who stunned Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final at Stade de France.

"It was a challenge for me but I will not be able to play one last major tournament for France," Vieira told Canal Plus television. "He (Domenech) made a choice on sporting grounds, I accept that."

Thierry Henry, now the France captain, was in the 1998 squad but did not play in the final.

Usually a substitute for Barcelona, Henry, whose infamous handball helped France qualify for the World Cup at the expense of Ireland, plays a big role in Domenech`s plans.

Defender William Gallas, who has been sidelined by a calf injury, was included in the provisional squad for the finals, where the 2006 runners-up will meet hosts South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay in the group stage.

Domenech, who has faced criticism ever since his side`s Euro 2008 flop and is booed by the France fans at every match, has until June 1 to turn his list into an official 23-strong squad.

Bureau Report