France wants perfect end to perfect campaign
France wants to finish their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign with a perfect record and will play a full-strength team in their final match against Israel on October 11, coach Jacques Santini said yesterday.
Santini left out midfielders Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele from his 19-man squad for the Group One qualifier at the Stade de France and called up defender Anthony Reveillere, in superb form for Olympique Lyon, and Lazio's Ousmane Dabo.
"We want to have the full set - eight games, eight victories," Santini told reporters. "You have to respect the national jersey and the opponents; we won't leave out our key players to prepare for the future.
"We are not going to take it easy - I want the players to concentrate and we are above all competitors."
France, the defending champions, have already qualified for the finals in Portugal by winning all seven games so far.
Santini called up 21 players for the two previous qualifiers. Defenders Willy Sagnol of Bayern Munich, Philippe Mexes of AJ Auxerre and Mikael Silvestre of Manchester United have been left out for the Israel game.
Santini said Silvestre had a lingering injury and "leaving him out will do him good. It will allow him to sort out the problem." Chelsea defender William Gallas has been recalled after missing the matches against Slovenia and Cyprus last month because of injury.
The French coach said he wanted to look at players like Reveillere, who has not been capped, and Dabo who won three caps earlier this year, but hinted they would not start the game. "As soon as we have the chance we will bring in new players. The European championship is in eight months - people say it's a long way away but there isn't much time for preparation.
"We have five matches left, four of which are friendlies. That isn't a lot of time to improve certain things."
Neither first team goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, of Manchester United, nor Dabo of Lazio are first team choices, but Santini said that did not affect their position - yet.