WORLD CUP: Barthez wins battle to be No 1

Paris, May 14:

Fabien Barthez has beaten Gregory Coupet to become France’s No 1 goalkeeper at the World Cup. France coach Raymond Domen-ech deliberated for several months before choosing Marseille’s Barthez ahead of Lyon’s Coupet.

“Barthez is the No 1 goalkeeper at the World Cup,” Domenech said when announcing his 23-man squad on Sunday. World Cup winner Barthez’s experience — he has 77 caps to Coupet’s 18 — may have worked in his favour, despite some erratic form earlier this season. “Character is also important,” Domenech said. “Those who play are able to withstand the pressure at the highest level.”

Barthez was suspended for eight months after spitting on a referee during a friendly for Marseille in Casablanca, Morocco. He missed France’s last four World Cup qualifiers, with Coupet — who has been voted the best ‘keeper in the French league for the last four seasons — doing well in the 1-0 win at Ireland. Barthez, who won the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championship, will be playing in his fifth major competition. He has rarely underperformed for Les Bleus and allowed only 44 goals in 77 games.

SQUAD: Goalkeepers — Fabien Barthez (Marseille), Gregory Coupet (Lyon), Mickael Landreau (Nantes); Defenders — Eric Abidal (Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle), Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan), William Gallas (Chelsea), Gael Givet (Monaco), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Mikael Silvestre (Manchester United), Lilian Thuram (Juventus); Midfielders — Vikash Dhorasoo (Paris Saint-Germain), Alou Diarra (Lens), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Juventus), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid); Strikers — Djibril Cisse (Liverpool), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Franck Ribery (Marseille), Louis Saha (Manchester United), David Trezeguet (Juventus), Sylvain Wiltord (Lyon).