Gallas injury adds to France worries

PARIS - William Gallas's latest injury setback has deepened France's niggling defence worries with the Arsenal defender now facing a struggle to make the World Cup deadline set by coach Raymond Domenech.

Domenech has stipulated that only players fit by May 18, when France will start a training camp in the French Alps, will go to the finals in South Africa.

Gallas has been ruled out for the rest of the club season after he pulled a calf muscle in last week's Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, his first match after missing eight games with his club and France's 2-0 defeat by Spain in March.

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Domenech has been struggling to find a consistent back-four unit since his side's Euro 2008 flop and the injury to Gallas, the most reliable and stable component in France's defence for the last two years, will only add to his worries.

"It is clear that a player who will not be in a position to play by May 18 will not come to the World Cup," Domenech told French sports daily L'Equipe.

Gallas has been paired with Philippe Mexes, Sebastien Squillaci, Julien Escude and Eric Abidal since Euro 2008, but none of that quartet have been able to establish a regular place alongside the Arsenal defender due to injury or poor form.

Domenech was even forced to call up uncapped Michael Ciani and unsung Adil Rami in the squad to face European champions Spain last month.

The France coach at least got some good news on Saturday when Abidal returned to the pitch for Barcelona after being sidelined for seven weeks with an adductor muscle injury.

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