Deschamps picks Diaby and Menez for France squad
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By JEROME PUGMIRE
PARIS (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps recalled injury-prone midfielder Abou Diaby and winger Jeremy Menez on Wednesday for the team's 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Finland and Belarus next month.
Diaby's last competitive match for France was against Belarus in a European Championship qualifier in June last year.
The powerful midfielder missed Euro 2012 after injuries restricted him to four substitute appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League. But he has started both league games for Arsenal this season.
"Diaby has enormous potential. He had a disastrous season last year, but he has done a full preseason and has played 90 minutes," Deschamps said. "He is a very fragile player but he seems to be on the right track and I hope that nothing will hold him back now."
Menez, meanwhile, was suspended for one match by the French Football Federation for being disrespectful toward France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and a match referee during Euro 2012. Menez's suspension saw him miss a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in a friendly earlier this month.
"It's in the past, the future interests me now. It's up to him to take stock of what he should and should not do," Deschamps said. "He has a lot of qualities as a football player."
France plays in Finland on Sept. 7 and hosts Belarus four days later.
The 26-year-old Diaby has been beset by ankle, calf and thigh problems throughout his Arsenal career and has only once managed to play more than 25 league games over a season since joining six years ago.
"He has a very interesting profile and is cut out to play at the highest level," Deschamps said. "At his age, he is now coming into full maturity."
Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau was also recalled, five years after making the last of his 11 international appearances in a home friendly against Morocco. But the 32-year-old Landreau comes in only as a backup to No. 1 Hugo Lloris of Lyon and No. 2 Steve Mandanda of Marseille.
"I know Mika very well, the role of the third goalie is very important," Deschamps said. "Although he won't get to play much, his role is important in the dressing room and around the squad because of his qualities as a person."
Deschamps expects Arsenal center half Laurent Koscielny to be available against Finland after recovering from a calf injury.
He left out Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila because he feels the midfielder has not made a good start to the season and has been sidetracked by issues over an impending transfer in the days leading up to the end of the transfer window.
Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa was also left out, although Deschamps said he expects Ben Arfa to be recalled in the near future.
Deschamps, France's captain when it won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, replaced Laurent Blanc after Euro 2012 when Blanc turned down a new contract.
He defended his choice to stick with the soft-spoken Lloris as captain, even though many observers consider that the Lyon goalie is not vocal enough on the field.
"You don't just click your fingers and become a leader overnight," Deschamps said. "Hugo has that quality, even though some people don't think he has the profile for it. But he has an exemplary attitude in everything he does."
Goalkeepers: Mickael Landreau (Lille), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Christophe Jallet (Paris Saint-Germain), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint-Germain), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle) Etienne Capoue (Toulouse), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich).
Updated August 29, 2012