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France boosted by Vieira return

19 November 2008 11:55

PARIS (AFP) - Inter Milan midfielder Patrick Vieira is expected to make his first international appearance in nine months when France welcome Uruguay to the Stade de France for a friendly game here on Wednesday evening.

The former Arsenal man was named in France's squad for Euro 2008 but a thigh injury kept him on the sidelines for the duration of his country's dismal showing at the tournament, while a calf problem forced him to pull out of France's last World Cup qualifier against Romania on October 11.

He has since returned to fitness, though, and looks set to pull on a French jersey for the first time since the 1-0 friendly defeat to eventual Euro 2008 winners Spain on February 6.

The return of the imposing Vieira is a boost for coach Raymond Domenech, who has received public backing from the French Football Federation despite an indifferent start to France's World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign.

Les Bleus sank to a surprise 3-1 defeat in Austria in their Group 7 opener, before beating Serbia 2-1 in Paris and fighting back from 2-0 down to claim a 2-2 draw in Romania.

Domenech has also drafted in Lyon defender Jean-Alain Boumsong after injuries robbed him of the services of three players.

"We have (Sevilla defender) Julien Escude who is out and we have (Arsenal full-back) Bacary Sagna and (Portsmouth midfielder) Lassana Diarra who are definitely out", Domenech said in a video on the French Football Federation's website.

"We've called up Jean-Alain Boumsong. For the time being, 'Boum' replaces three players."

Arsenal centre-half Mickael Silvestre is included in the squad despite not having represented his country since the 2006 World Cup, but Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa and Chelsea wide man Florent Malouda both fell victim to Domenech's rotation policy despite impressive club form.

France face a second friendly against Argentina on February 11 before their World Cup qualification campaign resumes with a double-header against Lithuania in March and April.

Uruguay are currently fifth in South America's World Cup qualification standings - a position that would earn them a play-off with the fourth-placed team from the North, Central American and Caribbean qualifying pool were they to finish there.

The two-time World Cup-winners can call on the services of Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan, who was on target twice in his side's 4-1 league victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, as well as promising 21-year-olds Barcelona defender Martin Caceres and Ajax forward Luis Suarez.

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