River Plate striker Higuain earns France call-up

November 9, 2006
By Christophe Michel

PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - France coach Raymond Domenech called up teenager Gonzalo Higuain, the French-born son of Argentine parents, on Thursday for a friendly international against Greece next week.

It was not immediately clear whether the River Plate striker would accept the call, however.

The 18-year-old is a French national but does not speak French.

A highly promising player, Higuain is already being compared with another French forward with an Argentine father, David Trezeguet, who was not on the 24-man list released by Domenech for next Wednesday's match at the Stade de France.

Domenech said Juventus forward Trezeguet, who might have helped Higuain feel at home, needed a break.

Higuain's father, Jorge, played professional club football in France for Brest, where Gonzalo, who will turn 19 next month, was born in 1987. He was only 10 months old when he moved to Argentina with his family and has lived there ever since.

A striker with playmaking skills, the gifted teenager has played 30 matches for River Plate, scoring 13 goals including six in the current Apertura championship.

'He's French and he let us know that he was available,' said Domenech, who has seen Higuain play only on tapes and has not spoken to him yet.

'He's an option. We will see whether he plays or not but in any case, he will taste the atmosphere of the team.'

Domenech said the fact that Wednesday's match was a friendly meant Higuain would still be able to play for Argentina in the future.

By including him in his list, however, the France coach made clear he would prefer him to opt for France.

In Buenos Aires, Higuain declined to talk to reporters after training. But his father said: 'Gonzalo doesn't want to go to France yet, he has other expectations.'

In October, Higuain said: 'I'm young with lots of time to play. I don't want to say anything until something happens. When it happens, I'll take the best decision for my family.'

Higuain was listed as a midfielder on Domenech's list, which featured another uncapped teenager in Olympique Lyon forward Karim Benzema.

Also 18, Benzema was a France under-21 international. He has scored seven goals in 16 matches for the French champions and Ligue 1 leaders this season.

'We're building for the future and already thinking about what the team will look like one or two years from now,' Domenech said.

Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who has not played for France for two years, is also in the group for the World Cup runners-up's last outing of the year against the European champions.

Missing from the list is Juventus defender Jean-Alain Boumsong, who has a groin injury.

Domenech, though, has kept faith with striker Nicolas Anelka who scored against the Faroe Islands last month.

However, he has yet to score in eight league appearances for Bolton Wanderers since moving to the Premier League in August and his only goal in England was against humble Walsall in a League Cup win almost two months ago.

Greece knocked out France in the quarter-finals of the 2004 European championship in Portugal.

Goalkeepers: Gregory Coupet (Olympique Lyon), Mickael Landreau (Paris St Germain)

Defenders: Eric Abidal (Olympique Lyon), Francois Clerc (Olympique Lyon), Julien Escude (Seville), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Wiliam Gallas (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (AS Roma), Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Lilian Thuram (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Alou Diarra (Olympique Lyon), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyon), Gonzalo Higuain (River Plate), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Olympique Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Girondins Bordeaux), Franck Ribery (Olympique Marseille), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon), Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan), Sylvain Wiltord (Olympique Lyon)

Strikers: Nicolas Anelka (Bolton Wanderers), Karim Benzema (Olympique Lyon), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Louis Saha (Manchester United)