Malouda out of France's final Euro qualifier

November 18, 2007

CLAIREFONTAINE, France, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Chelsea winger Florent Malouda has pulled out of France's final Euro 2008 qualifier against Ukraine on Wednesday because of a knee injury.

'Everybody is fit but Florent Malouda, who has left the training camp,' France coach Raymond Domenech told a news conference on Sunday.

France, second in Group B, have already qualified for next year's Euro finals in Switzerland and Austria following Italy's 2-1 win in Scotland on Saturday.

Malouda, who did not play in France's 2-2 home draw against Morocco in a friendly on Friday, picked up the injury during Chelsea's 0-0 draw at Schalke 04 in the Champions League on Nov. 6.

French players and staff celebrated with a glass of champagne on Sunday after qualifying for Euro 2008 without kicking a ball.

'At lunchtime, we had a glass of champagne together,' France coach Raymond Domenech told reporters on Sunday. 'We needed to mark the occasion, you couldn't let it go in silence.

'I'm making the most of this moment of peaceful happiness,' he added.

The World Cup runners-up still have one match left in their qualifying campaign, in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Arsenal centre back William Gallas said: 'We are happy because we're going to be at the Euro finals and because we have qualified with one match to spare.'

Domenech said the qualification for the finals in Switzerland and Austria showed that French football now had the consistency it once lacked.

'It is normal that France play in the major international competitions every two years,' he said.

'Then, if we can be in the final or win in the final once in a while, it's a nice bonus.'

He said that as of Wednesday the players would be vying for places in the squad for the finals.

'The preparations for Euro 2008 are starting,' Domenech said.