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France coach Blanc says Ben Arfa back in contention


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France coach Blanc says Ben Arfa back in contention

(AFP) – 2 hours ago 

PARIS — France coach Laurent Blanc told television station TF1 on Sunday that Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa has played himself back into contention for a place in his squad at Euro 2012.

Ben Arfa, 25, won the last of his eight caps in August 2010 before suffering a badly broken leg playing for the English side.

However, he has since returned to full fitness and has been outstanding in Newcastle's charge for Champions League qualification.

"I have not waited until his most recent performances to start following Hatem," Blanc told TF1's Telefoot programme.

"I can remember when he was recovering from his injury at (France's national training centre) Clairefontaine and nobody was thinking about Hatem Ben Arfa.

"We know he has great talent, this is not something that we have discovered in the last three games.

"It is very nice of his coach (Alan Pardew) to say that Laurent Blanc should take him to the Euros but he rarely picked him at the start of the season.

"He waited a long time before picking him, but now I would say he has become a contender again."

Blanc will name an initial list of foreign-based players selected for the squad on May 9, before announcing the domestic candidates on May 15.

A final list of 23 players will then be named by the UEFA deadline of May 29.

Another player trying to work his way back into Blanc's thoughts is Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff.

He has had a wretched time with injuries this season, starting just seven league games, but Blanc admits a lack of alternatives in the final third of the field means the door is still open for Gourcuff.

"His season has been chaotic," Blanc said of the 25-year-old, who played under him at Bordeaux.

"He has a chance of going to the Euros because we realise that we don't have many certainties in the attacking domain, so that still leaves him with a little opportunity."

Meanwhile, Blanc has admitted that he could be tempted by a return to coaching at club level abroad when his contract with France expires after the European Championship.

"It is possible that I will sign with a foreign club if I am approached, and if the challenge interests me but I am not forgetting that my priority is the Euros," said Blanc, who would be happy to remain in his current position but will only be offered an extension by the French Football Federation if Les Bleus perform well in Poland and Ukraine.

"I still want to remain as France coach, that is clear. It doesn't matter (that no new deal has been signed) but we need to make sure that the situation does not fester and poison the atmosphere in the squad."

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

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