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Injured Payet doubtful for World Cup

Dimitri Payet

Paris, May 17: French international Dimitri Payet looks a doubtful strarter for Russia World Cup after he left the field in tears succumbing to a suspected thigh injury just half an hour into Marseille's Europa League final clash with Atletico Madrid in Lyon.

Marseille had started brightly but found themselves 0-1 down to an Antoine Griezmann strike when Payet pulled up hurt.

The captain was included in Rudi Garcia's starting XI after overcoming a muscle problem that had kept him out of Friday's 3-3 Ligue 1 draw with Guingamp.

But Payet - who touched the trophy as he walked onto the pitch before kick-off - wore a frustrated expression before being replaced by Maxime Lopez after 32 minutes.

The former West Ham midfielder then became visibly upset as he made his way towards the Marseille bench, being consoled by many of his team-mates – as well as opponent Griezmann – while he left the field.

Payet was a key figure in France's run to the Euro 2016 final, although he has not featured for the national team since a 2-1 win over Belarus on October 10.

The 30-year-old had made a strong bid for a recall by coach Didier Deschamps with an impressive run of form which included inspiring Marseille to the Europa League final, but his injury may have ended his chances of playing in the tournament.

His disappointment may have been compounded by the fact Didier Deschamps will name his France squad for the World Cup on Thursday, with Payet hoping to be involved.

Meanwhile, Garcia defended his decision to include Payet in the starting XI.

Garcia conceded his captain was not 100 per cent match fit but hoped the inclusion of the team's star player could inspire his players to victory.

"I chose to start Dimitri, one of our best players," explained Garcia. "Even diminished, he set up a chance for Valere Germain.

"We missed him from set-pieces as Atletico, if they do ever concede, sometimes concede from set-pieces. We hoped that he'd be at 100 per cent and we gave him a fitness test this morning.

"He was worried about playing and whether he'd be able to kick the ball hard.

"He didn't aggravate the injury today, he just wasn't fully fit. In matches like this you have to take risks."

(With Agency/OPTA inputs)

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    Story first published: Thursday, May 17, 2018, 1:30 [IST]
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