Proud Cisse savours World Cup call

SAINT-PIERRE - Being set to play in a World Cup is a huge relief for France's Djibril Cisse, who knows all about missing major events because of bad luck.

A 20-year-old substitute at the 2002 edition in which Les Bleus made an early exit, the tattoed forward with the extravagant hairdos has sat out all the important international competitions since.

"There's a week to go and a lot can still happen before the World Cup," a cautious Cisse told reporters at the team's training camp in the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion on Wednesday.

Looking forward to playing Euro 2004, the striker was ruled out after being suspended for five matches for kicking an opponent.

Just before the 2006 World Cup he fractured his right leg in a warm-up game against China, a year after breaking his other leg.

Then came Euro 2008, which he missed after being sent home by coach Raymond Domenech when he trimmed his squad to 23 players.

Few would have put money on Cisse making this World Cup when he left English Premier League Sunderland last year to join Panathinaikos.

GREEK DOUBLE

He bounced back there, however, helping them win the Greek league and cup double and scoring 29 goals in all competitions.

"I'm really proud to be here because it has not been easy for me," Cisse said. "When the season started it was not obvious at all that I would be here."

On Friday, France will play China in their final warm-up for the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa, a fixture that brings back painful memories for Cisse.

It was against China, on June 2006 in St Etienne, the striker sustained the leg fracture that cost him a place in the World Cup.

"There's an ironic twist in there," Cisse said. "The defender who did it will not be there this time. I asked. It's a pity because we could have talked about it."

Being an automatic starter in South Africa may be a bit too much to ask for but Cisse is not complaining.

"I'll take whatever I'm offered," he said. "I'd rather play centre forward but I can come on a winger if I'm asked to. I'm ready to work hard and to fight."

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