Vieira left out of France squad

PARIS - Patrick Vieira has been left out of the France squad for their next two World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania, coach Raymond Domenech said on Thursday. "I was frank with him. He knows he is not at his best and that his level is not high enough to allow him to play for France," Domenech told reporters.

"That is why Patrick is not available for now -- I insist for now -- and I regret that," he added.

One new face in the squad is Toulouse's Ligue 1 top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac who was called up for the first time. The 23-year-old striker has scored 17 goals in Ligue 1 this season.

France visit Lithuania on March 28 before hosting the Baltic team four days later. Les Bleus are third in Group Seven with four points from three games.

The 32-year-old Vieira, who has 106 caps, has played in just one of the last 14 France games due to injuries.

The midfielder was not in the Inter Milan squad for Sunday's Serie A win over Fiorentina, having been substituted at halftime in their 2-0 defeat by Manchester United in the Champions League four days previously after being involved in both goals.

"He plays at a club where there is stiff competition between midfielders, where he struggles to get his position back," said Domenech.

However, the France coach left the door open to a future recall by saying: "He plays an important role for France. He is our captain. As soon as Patrick is back at his best, he will be with us again."

Domenech said he would not call on Vieira this time even if a player got injured before France visit Lithuania on March 28 but would rather bring in AC Milan's Mathieu Flamini.