Domenech silent as Pires omitted for World Cup qualifiers

Isabelle Rondeau, Paris

Domenech yesterday named a 20-man party for the two games against Switzerland on March 26 and Israel four days later.

There was no place for Pires, who has been out of favour in recent months, but Domenech said at the start of yesterday's press conference: "Once again I don't want to waste my time talking about the absentees."

The 31-year-old has 79 caps and played an integral part in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 successes.

But he has not been called up since the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Cyprus on October 13.

Pires was substituted at half-time during that match and then refused to sit on the bench, before suggesting after the game that Domenech had personal issues with him. Although Domenech refused to comment on Pires specifically, he did offer hope to all those not included.

He added: "I repeat that the door remains open, that this is my choice of the moment, that nothing's ever definite and that things can always change."

Pires' Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry was included even though he is suffering from a thigh strain which his club manager Arsene Wenger believes needs another two or three weeks to heal fully.

"Titi (Henry) is still recovering," said Domenech, "but he is optimistic.

"He will join us next week in Clairefontaine to continue his treatment and prepare for the qualifiers. I have not spoken with Wenger. The first match is in 10 days' time and the second in two weeks. There is no reason why I would spoil Thierry's chances to play those games such a long time beforehand.

"I spoke with Titi on the phone, he is ready, he is under treatment and he hopes he will be fit to play both ties."

Should Henry be forced to pull out, Domenech is likely to utilise Juventus' David Trezeguet or Lyon's Sylvain Wiltord, who has missed recent internationals through injury.

Domenech will also have to rethink his central defensive pairing due to Monaco's Sebastien Squillaci being ruled out through injury.

Newcastle's Jean-Alain Boumsong and Chelsea's versatile William Gallas are the favourites to take his place in the starting line-up.

FRANCE SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Barthez (Marseille), Coupet (Lyon) Defenders: Abidal (Lyon), Boumsong (Newcastle), Gallas (Chelsea), Givet (Monaco), Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Zebina (Juventus) Midfielders: Diarra (Lens), Mavuba (Bordeaux), Meriem (Bordeaux), Pedretti (Marseille), Vieira (Arsenal)

Forwards: Dhorasoo (AC Milan), Govou (Lyon), Giuly (Barcelona), Henry (Arsenal), Malouda (Lyon), Trezeguet (Juventus), Wiltord (Lyon).

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