Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa has been named to start in France’s first Euro 2012 warm-up game, against Iceland in Valenciennes today (Sunday).
Ben Arfa - after scoring wonder goal against Bolton Wanderers
The France manager Laurent Blanc has named his starting eleven a full 24 hours before the game, and this will be a big chance for the mercurial Frenchman, who is joined in the starting line up by his Magpies team-mate Yohan Cabaye.
The 8 times capped former Lyon and Marseilles winger, has been in top form for Newcastle United this year, and the game today is an excellent opportunity for the 25 year-old to finally make a final French squad.
For both the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland in 2008, and the World Cup in South Africa two years ago – Ben Arfa did not make the final cut.
And Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye, who had an excellent first season in the Premier League for Newcastle, starts in midfield along with Gourcuff, Manchester City’s Nasri, Ben Arfa, Jérémy Ménez and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
This could be third time lucky for Ben Arfa and we hope it is, and he is fighting it out with players like Franck Ribéry, Jérémy Ménez and Florent Malouda for a place in the final 23.
The Frenchman has shown he can be a match-winner in any game, and has scored two magnificent solo goals this year for the surging Newcastle United side, against Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers.
25 year-old Gourcuff has 28 caps, but has made only 23 appearances and just 10 starts for Lyon this season, and he has been continually plagued by injury, and Blanc may decide not to risk the Lyon midfielder in Europe.
Newcastle target Mathieu Debuchy of Lille starts at right back and Red Devil Patrice Evra is on the left hand side, with the two center-backs being Adil Rami, who has 17 caps and has been on loan at Lille from Valencia, and Milan’s 30 year-old Philippe Mexès.
Lille’s first choice keeper Hugo Lloris is left out, and Marseille’s 28 year-old Stève Mandanda, who has 14 caps, gets a chance between the sticks, with Bordeaux keeper Cédric Carrasso on the bench.
This is the French starting line-up against Iceland:
Mandanda; Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Evra; Cabaye, Gourcuff, Nasri; Ben Arfa, Benzema, Ménez
Blanc is expected to announce his squad of 23 maybe after today’s game, and then France play Serbia in Reims on Thursday night, and then Estonia in Le Mans on 5th June, just 6 days before they meet England in the first game of Group D.
And Roy Hodgson made a wining start as England manager last night, as England beat Belgium 1-0, with a goal from Manchester United winger Ashley Young after just 9 minutes, and captain Steven Gerrard putting in a good performance for England in central midfield.