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Nicolas Anelka hopes his time has finally come at European Championship

Nicolas Anelka hopes his time has finally come at European Championship

Eight years after playing in his only major tournament for France, Nicolas Anelka finally gets another chance to shine on the big stage after missing out on three World Cups and Euro 2004.
The 29-year-old striker could play some part when France plays its opening Group C match at the European Championship against Romania in Zurich on Monday after being overlooked for the 1998, 2002 and '06 World Cups.
"This time I want to show what I am able to do in a great competition," Anelka said. "I can be better than during Euro 2000."
Anelka's only title with France came eight years ago but he was disappointing, failing to score in five games before being dropped for the final against Italy.
Anelka was frozen out by then France coach Jacques Santini from October 2002 until current coach Raymond Domenech called him back for Les Bleus in a friendly against Costa Rica in Martinique in November 2005.
He scored on his recall and impressed again in a friendly against Germany. Cruelly, Anelka was then dropped, missing out on a fourth major tournament out of five. On the eve of the 1998 World Cup, Anelka was also highly fancied.
With Thierry Henry almost certain to start against Romania, Anelka is vying with Karim Benzema to be France's No. 2 striker and add to his 48 international appearances.
"The coach will make the final decision and we will see on Monday," Anelka said. "I am very serene."
The 20-year-old Benzema appears the favorite after impressing in warm-up games against Paraguay and Colombia. Benzema, scorer of 31 goals in his first full season with Lyon, has grown close to Anelka since breaking into the national team 15 months ago.
"We don't care who will start as we have a very good relationship," Anelka said. "Karim is a very good player, he will become the best."
Nothing much seems to bother Anelka these days _ a far cry from when the British tabloids labeled him "Le Sulk" for what they perceived to be his grumpy nature and mercenary attitude in regularly changing clubs.
These days, Anelka is smiling, relaxed and cheerful _ and that's despite a run of 22 games without a goal since scoring against Portsmouth on Feb. 2.
Anelka is happier as a provider for others, like when his astute pass set up Bafetimbi Gomis for France's second goal against Ecuador on May 27, or when his dashing run forced England goalkeeper David James to concede a penalty on March 26 in another friendly.
"I am not interested in scoring if I play poorly during the match," Anelka said. "That's why I want to play behind a main striker. It is where I feel I'm most useful. People only remember goals. I am different."


Updated : 2021-02-25 05:09 GMT+08:00