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Rothen luck boosts France

AS Monaco FC's Jérôme Rothen has received his first call-up for France's qualifiers against Malta and Israel.

Excellent form
The 25-year-old, who is regarded as possessing one of the most dangerous left-footed shots in Ligue 1, is currently in excellent form for Monaco. Rothen is the only new addition to Jacques Santini's squad.

Veterans miss out
Chelsea FC duo Marcel Desailly and Emmanuel Petit have little to celebrate after being forced to miss both games through injury. Desailly could have outstripped Didier Deschamps by winning his 104th cap, but will have to wait longer if he is to improve on the record he shares with his former team-mate.

'Physical problems'
"Marcel has been having physical problems for several weeks and I need players who are perfectly fit to play," said Santini. "Petit was not really available for selection. I can assure you that his omission and Desailly's have nothing to do with our game against the Czech Republic [a 2-0 friendly defeat] which was a freak result. They are only due to injuries and form. I'm sure both players will be very disappointed. I tried to talk to them but could only reach their voicemail."

Sagnol returns
FC Bayern München's right-sided defender Willy Sagnol has returned to the national team after a good run in the Bundesliga along with AJ Auxerre defender Philippe Mexès, but Jean-Alain Boumsong has been left out.

Qualifying challenge
Topping their qualifying group with three wins in three games against Cyprus, Slovenia and Malta, France lead Group 1. They take on Malta again in Lens on 29 March before meeting Israel at a neutral venue in Palermo, Italy, on 2 April.

France squad
Barthez, Coupet, Gallas, Lizarazu, Mexès, Silvestre, Thuram, Sagnol, Rothen, Makelele, Pedretti, Pires, Vieira, Wiltord, Zidane, Cissé, Govou, Henry, Marlet, Trezeguet.