Evra in France squad for Ukraine play-off

France coach Didier Deschamps on Thursday included Patrice Evra in a 24-man squad for this month's two-legged World Cup qualifying play-off against Ukraine.

Evra in France squad for Ukraine play-off
Didier Deschamps (L) on Thursday included Patrice Evra (R) in a 24-man squad for this month's two-legged World Cup. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

There were not too many surprises, but the inclusion of Manchester United left-back Evra came after he escaped punishment from the French Football Federation following a vicious verbal assault on several pundits during a television interview last month.

Deschamps said that any discussion of the Evra controversy did not interest him, and added: "The important thing for me is to be focused on this very important tie.

"You are free to debate whatever you like and write what you like. I repeat, Evra was available for selection and I made the decision as national coach.

"Internally, we are focused on our sporting objective. Nothing else should occupy our minds. It is important for us to stick together. I don't want us to be distracted from what is vital for us."

Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna and Lille captain Rio Mavuba return along with Bastia goalkeeper Mickael Landreau as three changes were made from the squad that faced Australia in a friendly and Finland in World Cup qualifying last month.

Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier and defender Kurt Zouma dropped out along with Marseille full-back Rod Fanni.

France will face Ukraine away in Kiev in the first leg on November 15th before the return at the Stade de France on November 19th.

Les Bleus, who have not failed to qualify for a major tournament finals since missing the 1994 World Cup in the United States, had to settle for a play-off spot after finishing second behind reigning world champions Spain in European qualifying Group I.

France squad

Goalkeepers: Mickael Landreau (Bastia), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Monaco), Gael Clichy (Manchester City/ENG), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United/ENG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna (both Arsenal/ENG), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool/ENG), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP)

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United/ENG), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Samir Nasri (Manchester City/ENG), Paul Pogba (Juventus/ITA), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United/ENG)

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal/ENG), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Loic Remy (Newcastle United/ENG), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)

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French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.