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Defender Zouma called up for France’s World Cup qualifiers

November 4, 2021 GMT
West Ham's Kurt Zouma celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. West Ham won 4-1. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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West Ham's Kurt Zouma celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. West Ham won 4-1. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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West Ham's Kurt Zouma celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. West Ham won 4-1. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

PARIS (AP) — With Raphael Varane out injured for a few weeks, France coach Didier Deschamps recalled Kurt Zouma on Thursday for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

After only recently returning from a groin injury, Varane limped off with a hamstring problem during Manchester United’s game against Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday and is expected to be out for about one month.

That means Zouma, who plays in central defense for Premier League club West Ham, could win his 11th and 12th international caps for Les Bleus against Kazakhstan at Parc des Princes on Nov. 13 and away to Finland in Helsinki three days later.

Deschamps will also be without Paris Saint-Germain central defender Presnel Kimpembe, who pulled out with a left thigh injury on Thursday evening and was replaced by Barcelona’s Clement Lenglet.

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Zouma’s club teammate Alphonse Areola was also drafted into the squad, although likely only as backup to No. 1 Hugo Lloris because No. 2 Mike Maignan is sidelined with a left wrist injury.

“Even though he does not play all the matches (for West Ham), he plays well when he does,” Deschamps said of Areola, who has three caps.

N’Golo Kante’s return to midfield means that Jordan Veretout misses out. Deschamps also left out Manchester United forward Anthony Martial to make room for Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman and did not recall veteran Olivier Giroud — despite four league goals in seven games for AC Milan.

Forward Christopher Nkunku was also overlooked despite some excellent performances this season for Leipzig, including an early goal in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“Christopher is a player we’re following closely, he’s been playing well and confirmed that on Wednesday,” Deschamps said. “He’s not in (the squad) but he’s a serious candidate. I can only encourage him to keep doing what he’s been doing.”

Meanwhile, brothers Lucas and Theo Hernandez were again called up together, after helping France win the Nations League last month. They started together in the semifinal against Belgium.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Benoit Costil (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham).

Defenders: Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Kurt Zouma (West Ham)

Midfielders: Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco).

Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Moussa Diaby, Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

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