PARIS - Nicolas Anelka's goalscoring prowess in the Premier League has given coach Raymond Domenech another headache before France host Uruguay in a friendly on Wednesday. The Chelsea striker is top scorer in England with 12 goals after netting seven in his last three outings. Anelka also played a crucial role as a half-time substitute when France defeated Serbia 2-1 in September to stay alive in World Cup qualifying Group Seven. Domenech is a big fan of Thierry Henry and France's all-time top scorer should not worry about his place in the new team the coach is trying to build. Neither should inspirational forward Franck Ribery. That makes the competition even stiffer for other attacking players such as Anelka, Ligue 1 top scorer Karim Benzema or playmakers Yoann Gourcuff, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa, who has not even been called up this time. There is also 30-year-old newcomer Steve Savidan from low-key Caen, who can expect to play a part in Wednesday's friendly. "He is one of the players we want to see at the highest level. You never know until you try. We want to see what he can do, it's up to him to show us something," Domenech told reporters last week. INJURY-PLAGUED DEFENCE Two years after Zinedine Zidane retired, Domenech has still to find the right balance in a squad with plenty of top-level forwards but few first class defenders. France's search for a reliable back four has again been plagued with injuries before Wednesday's friendly. Julien Escude and Bakary Sagna pulled out on Monday while Eric Abidal, Willy Sagnol and Francois Clerc are also injured. However, captain Patrick Vieira should return in midfield for the first time since a friendly in Spain in February after recovering from various injuries. Domenech narrowly escaped the axe after France's first round exit at the Euro finals and a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. He said Wednesday's friendly, his first game in charge since being reconfirmed as coach last month, and another against Argentina in February should help France move forward. "We must use this game to carry on building a new team to qualify for the World Cup and to prepare for our two games against Lithuania which will be a turning point in the qualifying campaign," Domenech said last week. "The fans see, just like I do, that something is starting to come up from this team, that something is being built," he added on the French federation website (www.fff.fr). Third-placed France visit and then host second-placed Lithuania in late March and early April in World Cup qualifying Group Seven.
18 November 2008
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