PARIS (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps drew a line under the Patrice Evra affair when he picked the Manchester United defender on Thursday in a 24-man squad to face Ukraine in their World Cup playoff.
Evra was cleared by the French federation after he called former internationals Luis Fernandez and Bixente Lizarazu “bums” in a TV interview last month.
“He was eligible so I decided to pick him,” Deschamps, who otherwise only added Lille midfielder Rio Mavuba to the squad who beat Australia 6-0 in a friendly and Finland 3-0 in their final World Cup qualifier, told a news conference.
“I and the players are focused on a very important meeting for us. You can write whatever you want. Internally we are focused on sport.”
Grilled on the matter by reporters, a slightly annoyed Deschamps added :
“I choose on sporting criteria. You can write whatever you want.”
France have made the headlines for off-field reasons in recent past.
In 2010, several players, including then captain Evra, were banned after being implicated in a strike in support of striker Nicolas Anelka who had insulted coach Raymond Domenech.
After Euro 2012, midfielder Samir Nasri was also banned for insulting a reporter after the team’s eliminations in the quarter-finals.
France will rely on FIFA-Ballon d‘Or hopeful Franck Ribery for the November 15 and 19 tie against Ukraine, whom they beat 2-0 in a Euro 2012 group stage game.
“He is an important weapon for us. He is full of confidence, he is a driving force,” Deschamps said of the Bayern Munich winger.
Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris was also picked after being kept on the field by manager Andre Villas Boas despite having lost consciousness in a Premier League game at the weekend.
“I got scared because a shock on the head is always worrying. But the fact that he could finish the game and also made a stop is reassuring. Otherwise it’s just another row,” Deschamps said of the controversy caused by Villas Boas’s decision.
Editing by Ed Osmond