France are coming together nicely under Didier Deschamps but there is still plenty of time for players to force themselves (back) into the reckoning ahead of UEFA EURO 2016.
Abou Diaby in action for France
“The door remains open,” Deschamps said Christian Châtelet picks out five on the fringes who could make a late run.
Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice, winger)
After six months in the footballing wilderness, the 28-year-old confirmed that he is back hungrier than ever with a dazzling goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win against Caen, beating four defenders before applying the coup de grace. “I just want to have fun on the pitch again,” he says. “But there is no lack of ambition.” Ben Arfa, who won the last of his 13 caps in 2012, looks to be getting back to his best and, at his best, he is difficult to ignore.
Long regarded as the natural successor to Patrick Vieira, a wretched list of injuries have denied him the mantle – now 29, he is running out of time. Diaby has made just 23 appearances over the past four seasons, including the last of his 16 caps in September 2012, but after ending a decade at Arsenal he hopes his new surroundings at Marseille can bring a change of fortunes. “I’m in a new chapter and aiming to get back to my best.”
Another man looking to revive his career at the Stade Vélodrome and, at his best, someone who can provide backup to the likes of Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. Former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Diarra has fallen off the radar during four years in Russia, and did not make a single appearance in 2014/15 after being frozen out at Lokomotiv Moskva. The 30-year-old marked his first appearance in 14 months with a goal at the weekend.
Layvin Kurzawa (AS Monaco, defender)
A key part of Monaco’s run to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals last season, Kurzawa appears to have resisted the lure of a transfer away to continue his development in the principality. “EURO 2016 at home is clearly a goal for me,” says the 22-year-old. France are blessed with left-backs, with Patrice Evra, Benoît Trémoulinas and Lucas Digne all vying for places, but Kurzawa is pushing them hard.
Anthony Martial (AS Monaco, forward)
Another Monaco youngster, Martial is the only uncapped player on this list. He needs to improve his efficiency in front of goal having managed a solitary league strike last season, but he is already on Deschamps’ radar and admits the pair have spoken. Martial is often compared to Thierry Henry and will hope to emulate Titi by making his major finals bow at 20 – 1998 was not a bad year for Henry or France.
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