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Ribery earns first start for France

Written by: Staff
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STUTTGART, Germany, June 12: Exciting newcomer Franck Ribery will start a match for France for the first time when they open their World Cup campaign against Switzerland at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion tomorrow.

The energetic midfielder was rewarded after brief but sparkling performances as a substitute in his first three international appearances in warm-up games.

The 23-year-old Ribery also benefited from the fact that fellow midfielder Florent Malouda, who was expected to be in the starting line-up, was ruled unfit.

France coach Raymond Domenech refuses to give any medical information about his players and the nature of Malouda's problem was unclear but the Olympique Lyon midfielder hardly trained over the past few days.

Ribery, whose daring runs and dribbling prowess have made him the darling of the Olympique Marseille fans, is the great hope of French football and is already being hailed as the next Zinedine Zidane.

''He brings a lot to the team with his fresh attitude on and off the pitch,'' the real Zidane said of Ribery today, shortly before a team spokesman unveiled the starting line-up.

''He's not afraid of anything and he's really good. I'm sure he will become somebody important in football,'' the France captain told reporters.

Domenech, who had fielded two strikers in all three friendlies France played in the build-up to the finals, decided to field Thierry Henry alone up front to face Switzerland.

France struggled against Switzerland in World Cup qualifying, drawing twice, and expect a tough match tomorrow.

''They want to beat us as much as we want to beat them,'' Zidane said. ''It will not be easy but it's important to start with a victory. A 1-0 win would suit me.'' France's other opponents in Group G are South Korea and Togo.

Team (4-2-3-1): 16-Fabien Barthez; 19-Willy Sagnol, 15-Lilian Thuram, 5-William Gallas, 3-Eric Abidal; 4-Patrick Vieira, 6-Claude Makelele; 11-Sylvain Wiltord, 10-Zinedine Zidane, 22-Franck Ribery; 12-Thierry Henry.

REUTERS

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