Barthez scores spot on French World Cup squad

15th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 15, 2006 (AFP) - Fabien Barthez has won the battle to be France's first choice goalkeeper at next month's World Cup finals.

PARIS, May 15, 2006 (AFP) - Fabien Barthez has won the battle to be France's first choice goalkeeper at next month's World Cup finals.

The Marseille player had been in fierce contention with Lyon's Gregory Coupet for the position, but after long reflection coach Raymond Domenech opted for the 77-times capped Barthez, a veteran of the 1998 World Cup winning side.

Coupet's performances for champions Lyon this season left many believing he would get the nod from Domenech.

And Coupet could not hide his disappointment after finding out on Thursday he would be sitting on the substitute's bench in Germany.

"It's not the end of the world but it's a huge disappointment," Coupet told Canal Plus television.

"I'm going to have to bounce back and, psychologically, get myself together for the World Cup campaign. I'll just have to get used to it."

Coupet said he expected to find out why Barthez was chosen for the number one jersey.

"I expect to be given an explanation, because when I was told the news I didn't really think about asking questions.

"I've got a reason to be annoyed, haven't I?"

In announcing his 23-strong squad on Sunday, Domenech mainly went for experience with the only mild surprises being the inclusion of two uncapped players — Wigan defender Pascal Chimbonda and Marseille midfielder Franck Ribery.

The Guadeloupe-born Chimbonda was struggling last season in the French league at Bastia where he was the victim of racist taunts from fans before signing for promoted Wigan in England.

That move away from France helped revive the 27-year-old's career and his consistent form brought him the Premiership's right-back of the year award.

"This is the reward for all the hard work I have put in," he said. "The coach had always said that the door to the squad was open."

The 23-year-old Ribery has been outstanding at Marseille this season being named the French league's Young Player of the Year and has been added to an ageing midfield to provide the option of some youth and drive.

"For any professional player the chance to play in a team like France with players like Zinedine Zidane would be a dream come true. I will do all I can to get the team into the final," he said.

As expected there was no place for Barcelona winger Ludovic Giuly, Arsenal's Robert Pires or troublesome striker Nicolas Anelka all of whom failed to convince Domenech that they could be valuable assets in Germany.

But the ever-cautious coach, who took over after France's poor performance at Euro 2004 in Portugal, did retain the core of the side he used to qualify for the finals anchored around World Cup winners Barthez, Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Thierry Henry.

"It wasn't easy," said Domenech. "There were nights of doubt, of sleeplessness for everbody, but I am convinced this squad can go as far as possible in Germany."

"What matters is the character shown by the players. The character of those that play who have to face up to the pressure of the World Cup. And the character of those who have to fill the roles of being reserves. It's not easy."

Thirteen of the 23 are based outside of France with eight playing in England, three in Italy and one each in Spain and Germany.

France have been grouped with Switzerland, South Korea and Togo.

The France squad for the World Cup finals announced on Sunday by coach Raymond Domenech:

Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Marseille), Grégory Coupet (Lyon), Mickaël Landreau (Nantes)

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle/ENG), Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan/ENG), William Gallas (Chelsea/ENG), Gaël Givet (Monaco), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich/GER), Mikaël Silvestre (Manchester United/ENG), Lilian Thuram (Juventus Turin/ITA)

Midfielders: Vikash Dhorasoo (Paris SG), Alou Diarra (Lens), Claude Makelele (Chelsea/ENG), Florent Malouda (Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Juventus Turin/ITA), Zinédine Zidane (Real Madrid/ESP)

Forwards: Djibril Cissé (Liverpool/ENG), Thierry Henry (Arsenal/ENG), Franck Ribéry (Marseille), Louis Saha (Manchester United/ENG), David Trezeguet (Juventus Turin/ITA), Sylvain Wiltord (Lyon)

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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