Valbuena, Ben Arfa left out of France Euro 2016 squad

Paris (AFP) – France coach Didier Deschamps named his 23-man squad for Euro 2016 on Thursday, with both Mathieu Valbuena and Hatem Ben Arfa missing the cut.

Valbuena’s season has been overshadowed by the sextape blackmail affair in which he has been a victim and which has seen star striker Karim Benzema of Real Madrid dropped by his country.

The Lyon midfielder has struggled for form and has unsurprisingly been left out of the hosts’ squad for the finals.

“Mathieu has had a very difficult season with injuries and his level of performance has been below what he is capable of doing,” said Deschamps, who announced his squad live on television station TF1’s evening news bulletin.

Ben Arfa had been hopeful of making the squad after relaunching his career at Nice but instead has to settle for a place on the standby list of eight.

Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho was also omitted after being suspended for 30 days by UEFA for failing a drugs test.

He tested positive for a fat burner after Liverpool’s Europa League game against Manchester United in March and was given a provisional ban at the end of April.

Despite the absence of Benzema, who has scored 27 goals in 81 caps, France have great strength in depth in attack.

Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud could lead the line while Antoine Griezmann is enjoying a superb season with Atletico Madrid.

Anthony Martial and Dimitri Payet have also enjoyed fine campaigns since moving to the English Premier League.

“Olivier Giroud has scored 25 goals in all competitions, Griezmann even more than that. Anthony Martial is at the same level. I am not calling into question what he (Ben Arfa) has done,” said Deschamps about his choices in attack.

“It is a sporting choice. Hatem Ben Arfa has had a very good season at Nice but other players have had a good season. I had some difficult decisions to make.”

Deschamps must announce his final 23-man squad by UEFA’s May 31 deadline.

France open Euro 2016 against Romania on June 10 before also facing Albania and Switzerland in Group A.

Before that they play friendly matches against Cameroon in Nantes on May 30 and Scotland in Metz on June 4.

France squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Benoit Costil (Rennes)

Defenders: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ENG), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City/ENG), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona/ESP), Patrice Evra (Juventus/ITA), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City/ENG), Lucas Digne (Roma/ITA – on loan from Paris Saint-Germain), Christophe Jallet (Lyon)

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus/ITA), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester City/ENG), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace/ENG), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United/ENG)

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United/ENG), Anthony Martial (Manchester United/ENG), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/GER – on loan from Juventus/ITA), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres UANL/MEX)

Standby: Alphonse Areola (Villarreal/ESP – on loan from Paris Saint-Germain), Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice), Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla/ESP), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United/ENG), Djibril Sidibe (Lille), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon)

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