'Little bike' feels total happiness

[FRANCE] Mathieu Valbuena, who was a semi-pro player four years ago when France went to the World Cup final, was named to Coach Raymond Domenech squad of 24 players who are headed to pre-World Cup altitude training in Tignes, beginning Tuesday.

The uncapped Valbuena, who helped Marseille win its first league title in 17 years, was playing for third division Libourne Saint-Seurin in 2006.

The 5-foot-5 Valbuena, who goes by the nickname Le petit vélo ("Little Bicycle"), began his career at Bordeaux but was deemed to be too small.

He was playing so poorly during the first half of the 2009-10 season that Marseille put him up for sale on the January transfer market, but no one wanted him.

The right winger caught fire in the spring and had three key goals in April for OM.

"I still cannot believe it,'' Valbuena said on his personal website. "I feel total happiness and a tremendous pride. Being in the France squad which will contest the World Cup, who could believe it? Not even me. I will work hard to make the most of the opportunity.''

Domenech trimmed his initial 30-man squad for the World Cup by cutting six players: goalie Mickael Landreau (Lille), Rod Fanni (Rennes), Adil Rami (Lille), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Hatem Ben Arfa (Marseille) and Jimmy Briand (Rennes).

Ben Arfa's exclusion means that the three stars of what was supposed to be a new generation of stars won't be going to the World Cup.

Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema didn't even make the 30 list.

Uncapped Bordeaux defender Marc Planus was kept in the team in case injured veteran William Gallas isn't fit.

The Arsenal defender, whose controversial goal sent France to the World Cup finals at Ireland's expense, has played only one game since February.

France Roster:
Goalkeepers: Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Man. United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla).
Midfielders: Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon).
Forwards: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).

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