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Anelka wins surprise France recall

Anelka has not played for the French national side in over three years

PARIS, France -- Nicolas Anelka has earned a surprise recall by France for their friendly internationals against Costa Rica and Germany next week.

Anelka, who said he would not return to international duty under current coach Raymond Domenech, has been named in a 23-man squad.

The Fenerbahce striker has not played for France since he rejected a late call-up from former coach Jacques Santini to face Yugoslavia in November 2002.

France, who have qualified for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, meet Costa Rica in Martinique next Wednesday and the Germans at the Stade de France three days later.

"I don't think I'm going to play for 'Les Bleus' again as long as Domenech is in charge," Anelka said in April. "Even when there are dozens of guys injured, Domenech doesn't pick me."

The former Paris St Germain, Arsenal and Real Madrid striker moved from Manchester City to Fenerbahce in January.

The 26-year-old, who carefully nurtures his rebel image, has won 28 caps for France, scoring six goals.

Anelka later apologised to Santini for his snub in 2002 but the French coach refused to forgive him and ruled him out of the national squad for the 2004 European Championship in Portugal. The mercurial striker also missed the 2002 World Cup when Roger Lemerre was in charge.

Anelka won his first cap under Aime Jacquet in April 1998 in a warm-up against Sweden but was left out of the squad for the triumphant World Cup campaign in France that year.

"I picked Anelka because it seemed interesting to have him again in the squad now," said Domenech. "My only concern was the good of the team.

"We are now preparing for the next year's World Cup and we don't have much time. Everybody must feel involved in this preparation, no matter what was the past.

"I only care about the future of this team and my job is to review all the options, to try every opportunity before making any choices."

By calling Anelka back, Domenech has tried to prove that no player was black-listed or definitely ruled out of the squad.

"I didn't do my list to make anyone happy," the French coach said. "I chose Anelka because he is a fast, determined and gifted player.

Anelka was not the only striker to return for France. Arsenal's Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet of Juventus are making their comeback after missing the last two World Cup qualifiers through injury.

However, Domenech had no choice but to omit Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who is troubled by a groin injury.

Marseille goalkeeper Fabien Barthez returns too after being suspended for six months for spitting at a referee during a club friendly.

Regarded as first choice since the 1998 World Cup, Barthez may not be certain of his position with Lyon's Gregory Coupet proving a more than reliable replacement.


Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Marseille), Gregory Coupet (Lyon), Mickael Landreau (Nantes)

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle), William Gallas (Chelsea), Gael Givet (Monaco), Franck Jurietti (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Lilian Thuram (Juventus)

Midfielder: Alou Diarra (Lens), Vikash Dhorasoo (Paris St Germain), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Lyon), Jerome Rothen (Paris St Germain), Patrick Vieira (Juventus)

Strikers: Nicolas Anelka (Fenerbahce) , Djibril Cisse (Liverpool), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Sidney Govou (Lyon), David Trezeguet (Juventus), Sylvain Wiltord (Lyon).

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