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Football | France

Didier Deschamps © Gallo Images

Coach lashes out at 'pitiful' Benzema



Didier Deschamps took a swipe at Karim Benzema on Thursday as the French coach again left the Real Madrid forward out of his 26-man squad for three key matches next month.

The 29-year-old Benzema has not figured for France since October 2015 over allegations of his involvement in a sex-tape scandal featuring midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema and former international teammate Valbuena exchanged barbs this week and Benzema also "liked" an Instagram photo ridiculing Deschamps and striker Olivier Giroud.

Investigators suspect Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and alleged victim Valbuena. The case is likely to go to court later this year.

Asked about Benzema's recent actions, Deschamps said: "I would say only one word: it's pitiful."

"The French team was built before the Euro (last summer), it was consolidated through the competition, where we managed to reach the final," he added of Benzema's continued omission.

"We have continued to be competitive in qualifying. I have a group with balance and harmony."

France take on Paraguay in a home friendly on June 2, Sweden away in a crucial World Cup qualifier on June 9 and England in Paris in a June 13 friendly.

Lyon predator Alexandre Lacazette regains his place at the expense of Atletico Madrid's Kevin Gameiro, while Tottenham Hotspur's Moussa Sissoko replaces Monaco's Tiemoue Bakayoko.

Bakayoko has been playing in a mask to protect his broken nose.

Monaco prodigy Kylian Mbappe again gets the chance to impress up front, while Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma gets a call-up.

French squad:

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (Paris SG), Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ENG)

Defenders: Lucas Digne (Barcelona/ESP), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris SG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ENG), Benjamin Mendy (Monaco), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona/ESP), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea/ENG)

Midfielders: N'Golo Kanté (Chelsea/ENG), Blaise Matuidi (Paris SG), Paul Pogba (Manchester United/ENG), Adrien Rabiot (Paris SG), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham/ENG), Corentin Tolisso (Lyon)

Attackers: Ousmane Dembele (Dortmund/GER), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal/ENG), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)



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