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Giroud called in by France

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PARIS (AP)

France coach Laurent Blanc called up Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud for the first time Thursday, including him in the squad to play friendlies against the United States and Belgium this month.

Giroud is currently the top scorer in the French league with eight goals and has been instrumental in Montpellier's rise to second place.

''He's a player whose profile is atypical and I like to have an atypical player up front,'' Blanc said. ''I think it's the right moment to reward him with that call-up and to make him realize what is the international level.''

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''At the international level, if we except Karim (Benzema), there are very few (French) players who score goals.''

Last month, France finished top of its qualifying group to secure a place at next year's European Championship.

France will host the United States on Nov. 11 and Belgium on Nov. 15. The team is unbeaten in its last 15 matches.

''Those matches are important for the confidence of the squad,'' Blanc said. ''Players must realize that we will prepare to win those two matches.''

One of Blanc's goals in those friendlies will be to encourage the emergence of leaders inside the squad.

''There are some players who are leaders in their clubs but who are not yet leaders in the France team,'' Blanc said. ''It's up to us to put them in the best conditions so that they become leaders in the France team. We need it. We have found a few leaders but it's not enough. There was a huge lack of confidence in the first half against Bosnia. Those players could not pull the team upward.

''So far, Franck (Ribery) is not playing at his best in the France team. But his mindset has improved a lot and he is very motivated.''

In its last qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina in October, France struggled in the first half, conceding a goal before hitting back after the break with an equalizer from Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri.

Blanc left Manchester United fullback Patrice Evra out of the squad.

''He has played a lot since the start of the season. He needs some rest,'' Blanc said. ''Those who play an entire season with their clubs unfortunately go to the Euros very tired.''

Blanc also dropped Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul, Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena and Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis. While AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes was not available after fracturing his hand last week in training.

Friendlies are an opportunity for uncapped players to make a strong impression. In May 2008, Gomis scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Ecuador on his France debut and the following day he made the final squad for the European Championship.

The draw for Euro 2012 will be held on Dec. 2 in Kiev, Ukraine.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Jeremy Mathieu (Valencia), Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint-Germain).

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Samir Nasri (Manchester City).

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kevin Gameiro (Paris Saint-Germain), Jeremy Menez (Paris Saint-Germain), Loic Remy (Marseille), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier).

 



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