Injured Payet out of France team

PARIS • Marseille's Dimitri Payet was left out of France's World Cup squad on Thursday, completing a miserable 24 hours for the midfielder.

He was forced off with a hamstring injury in the first half of the French Ligue 1 club's 3-0 Europa League final defeat by Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

And worries over the recovery time needed was enough to sway France coach Didier Deschamps, resulting in Payet's omission for the final squad of 23.

"Dimitri Payet was a serious candidate for a place in the squad. He played the first half-hour (against Atletico), but he aggravated his injury, and the recovery time needed for that type of injury is three weeks," Deschamps told French TV channel TF1. "As it is a muscle injury, there is a risk of a relapse."

Payet was one of France's standout players at Euro 2016, when they reached the final as hosts before losing to Portugal.

But he has also fallen victim to the number of attacking options available to Deschamps, who did call up Payet's club team-mate Florian Thauvin along with Lyon captain Nabil Fekir.

Manchester City left-back Benjamin Mendy was also a surprise inclusion despite having missed almost the entire Premier League season with a serious knee injury.

"It always seems impossible until it's done," Mendy tweeted.

Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann, fresh from scoring a brace that helped the LaLiga side lift the Europa League trophy, will spearhead Les Blues' attack alongside Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud and Paris Saint-Germain starlet Kylian Mbappe.

However, Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette and Manchester United forward Anthony Martial could settle for only a place in the standby list together with nine other players in case of injuries.

Deschamps also opted to snub Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as his international exile goes on. The 30-year-old has not played for France since October 2015 after being accused of involvement in a blackmail affair involving a sex tape.

"I have put my faith in players who have responded to that (incident) and the squad comes before everything else. I make decisions for the good of the France team," Deschamps said in reference to Benzema.

While Deschamps has named a relatively inexperienced squad, with only nine players from the group who reached the Euro 2016 final and an average age of 26, the 49-year-old believes his team are still full of "ambition".

France open their World Cup campaign against Australia on June 16, before also taking on Peru and Denmark in Group C.

Before heading to Russia, they will play three home friendlies, starting against Ireland on May 28.

France will then take on Italy on June 1 before squaring off against the United States on June 9.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Injured Payet out of France team'. Print Edition | Subscribe