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Evra counting the days until France ban ends

Manchester United defender Patrice Evra says the trauma of his World Cup experience as France's disgraced captain will not be over until he pulls on the national team shirt again.

Evra was the France captain who led the team in a training ground strike during the World Cup in a protest over Nicolas Anelka being sent home for insulting coach Raymond Domenech, who has since left the post.

Evra was banned for five international games and has one more remaining - next month's friendly against England - before he is available for the friendly against Brazil in February.

"The scar is still there," Evra told French television on Sunday. "I'm not going to pull the wool over my eyes, it will only be behind me when I've pulled the blue shirt on again."

Domenech stripped Evra of the captaincy for France's final World Cup group game, a defeat to host South Africa.

Evra has missed all four of France's European Championship qualifiers so far under new coach Laurent Blanc.

France lost at home to Belarus but lead Group D after consecutive qualifying wins against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and Luxembourg.

"It hurt a lot to watch them (without playing)," Evra said. "As long as the coach and my teammates want me to I will play for my country. That's a certainty. It's in my head every day."

Blanc has picked Arsenal's left back Gael Clichy in Evra's absence, but Clichy has failed to impress.

However, Blanc has respected the ban handed down by the French football federation and has not contacted Evra since.

"People always ask me this question. I don't see the point of it. The contact I will have is if he calls me up again," Evra said. "I think he has enough to concentrate on with the France team. They've won games and that's good for confidence."

Evra, who set up Manchester United's winning goal in Sunday's 2-1 win against Stoke City, believes he has an outside chance of reducing his ban to four games and playing against England.

To have any chance of that, he would need to appeal to the French Olympic Committee, which could then review his case. Evra, who has played 32 times for France, has not decided whether it is worth doing.

"I went through some hard times and it's coming to an end, despite the fact there's one match left," Evra said. "We'll see what happens, whether I'll go before the Olympic Committee, we'll see. For now I am concentrating on my performances."

Former France international Bixente Lizarazu, a member of the team that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, has been fiercely critical of Evra and his role in the World Cup strike in South Africa.

"He wants to go before the Olympic Committee and end this suspension when there's only one game left?" Lizarazu asked Sunday. "It serves no purpose. It's surprising that he's still thinking in this way."

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Tags: gael clichy, nt: france, patrice evra, ugh
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