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Leagues: Bundesliga

Leipzig star Nkunku gets first France call-up

Paris (AFP) – RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku was one of two new faces included in the France squad by coach Didier Deschamps as the World Cup holders prepare for two friendly matches against African opposition later this month.

The 24-year-old Nkunku, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain, is one of the leading scorers in the German Bundesliga this season with 15 goals.

He had been tipped for a first call-up to the last France squad for their final World Cup qualifiers in November only to just miss out.

There was also a first call-up for Jonathan Clauss, the 29-year-old right wing-back who has been in outstanding form for Lens.

France play the Ivory Coast in Marseille on March 25 and then host South Africa in Lille four days later.

Les Bleus had already secured their spot at the World Cup in Qatar later this year but wanted to play warm-up matches while other nations take part in play-offs to try to qualify for the finals.

Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano is a high-profile absentee from the squad which features leading names like Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema. 

The winners of the 2018 World Cup in Russia will find out their opponents at this year’s tournament when the draw for the group stage takes place in Doha on April 1.

Neither the Ivory Coast nor South Africa made it through to the final qualifying play-offs in the African zone which take place at the end of this month.

France squad

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham United/ENG, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Mike Maignan (AC Milan/ITA)

Defenders: Jonathan Clauss (Lens), Lucas Digne (Aston Villa/ENG), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich/GER), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan/ITA), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla/ESP), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich/GER), Raphael Varane (Manchester United/ENG)

Midfielders: Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille, on loan from Arsenal/ENG), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea/ENG), Paul Pogba (Manchester United/ENG), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus/ITA), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco)

Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/GER), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP, on loan from Barcelona/ESP), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/GER)

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