- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

PARIS (AP) - In-form Nice winger Hatem Ben Arfa was left out of the France squad for the European Championship as coach Didier Deschamps unveiled a 23-man squad with no surprise inclusions on Thursday.

Ben Arfa scored 17 goals in 33 French league matches this season but was not selected in Deschamps’ main group of players for the tournament starting in France on June 10.

Deschamps had many offensive options at his disposal, even without Karim Benzema, who was suspension from the national team because of his involvement in an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

He picked six attacking players, including Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac. Ben Arfa was put on a standby list of eight players.

Valbuena, who has been struggling throughout the season with Lyon, was also left out. He took to social media to note his dejection.

“This season has been marked by events that obviously had repercussions on my performances and this non-selection,” Valbuena wrote. “I won’t talk in the media before the Euro is finished. I will speak later about the season and the facts that could have been related to me.”

Benzema was more laconic in commenting on the list, with a short message of congratulations addressed to his Real Madrid teammate Raphael Varane, who was among the eight defenders selected.

Deschamps praised Ben Arfa for his excellent results but said he was behind other strikers in his pecking order.

“They scored more than he did,” Deschamps said. “Olivier Giroud had 25 goals in all competitions, Griezmann even more. Anthony Martial is on the same level. Hatem Ben Arfa did a great season and if I had doubts he would not be in the reserve list.”

Another victim of the fierce competition in attack was Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette, who scored a hat trick last weekend to take his tally to 21 league goals for the season, but was put on the B list.

“They won’t be on holidays,” said Deschamps about his reserve players, insisting that Remy Cabella and Morgan Schneiderlin reached the World Cup two years ago because others got injured. “They will be involved in a large part of our preparations.”

The other notable absentee was Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, who has provisionally been suspended for 30 days by UEFA after failing a doping test. Deschamps said he believed Sakho did not try to cheat but that uncertainties surrounding his fate ruled him out.

“Hopefully the sanction won’t be too heavy,” Deschamps said.

In midfield, N’Golo Kante, who was handed his first cap in March, was rewarded for his consistent showings with English Premier League champions Leicester.

France plays Romania in the tournament opener on June 10 at the Stade de France in Paris. Group A also includes Switzerland and Albania.

The last time France hosted a major tournament in 1998, it ended up winning the World Cup. France also won the European Championship in 1984 and 2000.

___

France:

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Benoit Costil

Defenders: Raphael Varane, Laurent Koscielny, Eliaquim Mangala, Jeremy Mathieu, Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna, Christophe Jallet, Lucas Digne

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Lassana Diarra, N’Golo Kante, Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko

Attaquants: Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud, Andre-Pierre Gignac

Reserves: Alphonse Areola, Hatem Ben Arfa, Kevin Gameiro, Alexandre Lacazette, Adrien Rabiot, Morgan Schneiderlin, Djibril Sidibe, Samuel Umtiti

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