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Ben Arfa back in France Euro squad after two-year wait

Newcastle playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa is the eye-catching name among the initial list of 12 overseas-based players selected for France's Euro 2012 training squad.

The ex-Marseille man has not featured at all in qualification for this summer's tournament, his last international appearance coming in August 2010 -- shortly before he broke a leg playing for the Magpies against Manchester City.

That cap, Ben Arfa's eighth, came in coach Laurent Blanc's first match in charge against Norway, for which the former Bordeaux boss dropped all the players involved in Les Bleus' atrocious World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Ben Arfa is joined on the list by seven other English-based players, including clubmate Yohan Cabaye and Manchester City pair Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

Centre-halves Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) and Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra and Chelsea winger Florent Malouda are also among those called up.


Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema provide exciting attacking options while Adil Rami of Valencia and AC Milan's Philippe Mexes join Koscielny and Kaboul among the central-defensive options.

There is no place for Rami's Valencia colleague Jeremy Mathieu, despite the adventurous full-back's impressive displays in La Liga this season.

Blanc admitted that his inexperienced midfield is an area of concern as he puts together his squad for next month's finals in Poland and Ukraine.

The likes of Cabaye, Marseille's Morgan Amalfitano and Arsenal target Yann M'Vila of Rennes -- the latter two expected to feature on a second list of home-based players, to be released next Tuesday -- have little experience.

"I almost have my list of 23," Blanc said. "My final hesitation concerns a long-term problem -- the midfield is suffering from a lack of leadership and a lack of international experience. There are players who have the potential to be in the team -- but there are very few who have proven they can really be a part of it."

Irish Independent