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France coach Deschamps includes Kanté and Barcola in preliminary Euro 2024 squad

PARIS (AP) — Midfielder N’Golo Kanté was surprisingly included in France’s preliminary list of players for the European Championship on Thursday, with coach Didier Deschamps also giving a first call-up to Paris Saint-Germain forward Bradley Barcola.

Kanté's return was not expected following the former Chelsea player’s departure to the lucrative Saudi league last summer after he struggled with injuries. The 2018 World Cup winner has not played for France since June 2022.

Deschamps said Kanté, who has played 53 matches with France, has rediscovered his form at Al-Ittihad.

“He has had a full season, albeit not in a European league as he plays in Saudi Arabia, where he has regained his full physical fitness,” Deschamps said as he announced his squad on French TV channel TF1.

Kanté won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021 and was one of the best players in the Premier League when he earned back-to-back titles with Leicester (2016) and Chelsea (2017). He’s the first player who moved to the Saudi league to get called up by France.

“We followed him regularly. He was able to regain all his footballing and athletic skills by playing a lot of matches,” Deschamps said. “The situation was clear in my mind. I took this decision because I think the French team will be stronger with him.”

In contrast, Barcola’s presence in the squad was widely expected following his excellent season with PSG.

After joining from Lyon, the 21-year-old winger with excellent speed and dribbling skills has settled quickly at the star-studded club. He delivered at big games and was the main reason PSG managed to get past Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.

“He has that ability to make a difference and score goals,” Deschamps said.

Real Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy, who has not played for France since September 2022, also makes his return. PSG defender Lucas Hernandez, who recently underwent surgery after rupturing his left ACL, was left out.

Deschamps has plenty of options up front, with captain Kylian Mbappé leading a group of forwards filled with talent that also includes Barcola, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembélé, Olivier Giroud, Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram.

Deschamps can still amend his squad before a June 7 deadline when teams must give UEFA a list of a minimum of 23 players and a maximum of 26.

The tournament in Germany starts June 14. Two-time champion France is in Group D with Austria, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Before traveling to Germany, the World Cup finalist will play two warmup matches against Luxembourg and Canada. ___


Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Mike Maignan (AC Milan), Brice Samba (Lens)

Defenders: Jonathan Clauss (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konaté (Liverpool), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Inter Milan), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich).

Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), N’Golo Kanté (Al-Ittihad), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus Turin), Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid), Warren Zaïre-Emery (PSG).

Forwards: Bradley Barcola (PSG), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembélé (PSG), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Randal Kolo Muani (PSG), Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Marcus Thuram (Inter Milan).


AP soccer: https://ift.tt/jgQJsWG

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