France’s Matuidi called up for qualifiers

France called up Saint-Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi on

Wednesday to cover for injured midfielder Yohan Cabaye, and doubts

remained whether striker Karim Benzema will play in European

Championship qualifiers against Belarus and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

France coach Laurent Blanc summoned the uncapped Matuidi as a

replacement for Cabaye, who left the Clairefontaine training center

because of a small tear to his left thigh.

Benzema also underwent medical tests on Wednesday after he

received a knock on his right ankle during training earlier this


”Karim Benzema’s medical checks are reassuring,” France

spokesman Philippe Tournon said. ”We will make a decision on

whether he can play on Friday.”

Five other players – Loic Remy, Adil Rami, Guillaume Hoarau,

Mamadou Sakho and Abou Diaby – trained apart from the rest of the

squad without a ball.

Blanc will be without Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra, who

picked up a hamstring strain last weekend, and the injured Samir

Nasri for its Euro 2012 qualifying opener against Belarus on


France then plays at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sept. 7.

Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff is not allowed to play after being

sent off at the World Cup while Nicolas Anelka, Patrice Evra,

Franck Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan are unavailable after they were

suspended by the French federation following the squad’s training

strike in South Africa.

Matuidi was selected for a friendly against Norway last month

but didn’t play.

About 300 fans attended France’s training session, which was

marked by Zinedine Zidane’s return at the team’s training


Zidane lunched with the players and they watched videos of

France’s 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship title


The purpose of Zidane’s visit, and that of former France

goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, is Blanc’s way of showing the young

players how proud they should be to represent their country after

the debacle in South Africa.

”It can’t do them any harm,” Zidane said. ”I spoke to them

about my experiences with the France team.”

Blanc had asked his former France teammate to join the players

at training to give them some extra motivation.

”Everyone knows what he achieved during his career but not

everyone knows the man himself,” Blanc said. ”He is an

interesting character and the players will be able to get up close

to him.”

Blanc and Zidane were part of the France team which won the 1998

World Cup and the Euro 2000.

On Friday, France will play its first home game since its World

Cup fiasco.