PARIS (Reuters) - France coach Laurent Blanc recalled World Cup rebels Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery to his squad on Thursday for the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifier in Luxembourg against the wishes of the country’s sports minister.
Captain Evra was banned for five games and Ribery for three after France players refused to train during last year’s ill-fated World Cup campaign when Nicolas Anelka was sent home for verbally abusing former coach Raymond Domenech.
Blanc resisted the temptation to recall Evra for last month’s friendly win over Brazil despite his suspension having expired but with fellow left back Eric Abidal having surgery on a liver tumour, Evra has now got his chance.
Ribery was previously injured when his ban ended.
Before the squad list was issued, Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno reiterated her wish that the pair remain excluded.
“I maintain (my stance). Nothing has changed really. There was no apology, no mea culpa,” she told reporters on a visit to the France national rugby centre at Marcoussis.
Blanc hit back in a news conference.
“I make choices based on sporting criteria. I am only accountable to the president of the French Football Federation,” he said.
In-form France, who top Euro 2012 qualifying Group D, visit neighbours Luxembourg on March 25 before hosting Croatia at the Stade de France four days later in a friendly.
Manchester United left back Evra is not expected to regain the captaincy with Ribery, in good form for Bayern Munich after overcoming a series of niggles, also unlikely to be a candidate.
The squad contained no other surprises with Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri back after missing the Brazil win with injury and team mate Laurent Koscielny retaining his place having received his first callup last month.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Girondins Bordeaux).
Defenders: Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (AS Roma), Adil Rami (Lille), Mamadou Sakho (Paris St Germain), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon), Yann M’Vila (Stade Rennes), Samir Nasri (Arsenal), Florent Malouda (Chelsea).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kevin Gameiro (FC Lorient), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Jeremy Menez (Roma), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Loic Remy (Marseille)
Reporting by Pascal Lietout and Jean-Paul Couret; Writing by Mark Meadows; Editing by Justin Palmer