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France coach Deschamps picks Lacazette to replace injured Giroud against Spain and Serbia
PARIS - Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette will get his chance to play for France in the absence of the injured Olivier Giroud in matches against Spain and Serbia next month.
The 23-year-old Lacazette, who was called up Thursday by France coach Didier Deschamps, scored 15 league goals last season but failed to make the World Cup squad.
He will take the place of Giroud, who will be sidelined for about four months after sustaining a small break to his tibia during Saturday's 2-2 draw against Everton in the Premier League, just seconds after he scored.
France plays Spain at Stade de France next Thursday and then at Serbia three days later. Serbia is in Group I along with France in European Championship qualifying. But as host of Euro 2016, France has automatically qualified and the matches played against the national team do not count in terms of points and serve only as friendlies.
With the exception of Giroud and goalkeeper Mickael Landreau, who has retired, Deschamps kept faith with the squad that reached the World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil, losing 1-0 to eventual winner Germany. Landreau has been replaced by Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who returns after a serious neck injury.
Although Deschamps intends to experiment with his squad over the next two years, he stuck with his World Cup players for the next two games as a way of rewarding them and thanking the fans.
"We're playing at the Stade de France in front of our fans and I think the players who played at the World Cup deserve to be here," Deschamps said. "For all the fans who got behind the team in Brazil, encouraged us and experienced these emotions, I think they deserve to have this contact with the team."
France has nine players under the age of 25 in its squad, and Deschamps expects more young players to be tested leading up to Euro 2016.
"The most important thing in the long term is to be as competitive as possible for Euro 2016. That means giving some players games, and it means changes in tactics and organization," he said. "No one knows what will happen in the next two years, we'll no doubt see some new players."
One notable absentee from the squad is Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, who recently announced his international retirement.
Ribery was ruled out of the World Cup shortly before the team left for Brazil with a recurrence of a back injury.
"The main thing for him is to enjoy playing again," Deschamps said. "I don't know what will happen next, he's made the decision now. Every player thinks about their own situation, with regards to their club."
Deschamps has not ruled out calling him up again at some stage, however.
"If I have to call up a player I will, otherwise you know what happens in terms of suspensions. That's the case for everybody, not just Franck," Deschamps said. "He has a long history with the France team, dating back to 2006."
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Stephane Ruffier (Saint-Etienne)
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal), Lucas Digne (Paris Saint-Germain), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Remy Cabella (Newcastle), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Loic Remy (Queens Park Rangers), Mathieu Valbuena (Dynamo Moscow)
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