Cabaye defends Newcastle United team-mate Ben Afra

BUST-UP ... Hatem Ben Arfa has had a row with French coach Laurent Blanc.
BUST-UP ... Hatem Ben Arfa has had a row with French coach Laurent Blanc.

YOHAN Cabaye has leapt to the defence of Newcastle United team-mate Hatem Ben Arfa after the winger’s Euro 2012 frustration.

Ben Arfa was dropped for France’s quarter-final against Spain after reportedly clashing with coach Laurent Blanc in the aftermath of their 2-0 Group D defeat against Sweden.

The Newcastle winger had started that game, but was hauled off after an hour and then angered Blanc by talking on his mobile phone in the changing rooms afterwards.

A row broke out, with Ben Arfa questioning why he was substituted, and while Blanc insisted later that the matter was resolved, he left the enigmatic attacker to fester on the bench as France bowed out against Spain.

Cabaye, however, insists his pal’s spirits remain strong, and denied suggestions that rifts in the Les Blues camp – including an argument between Olivier Giroud and Samir Nasri – were responsible for their poor performances in Poland and Ukraine.

“Hatem is his own character, and is not always easy,” admitted Cabaye.

“And in the heat of the moment, he may have said things he now regrets.

“However, he is in good spirits now. I left him yesterday and his morale was good.

“Nothing ever happened between Giroud and Nasri. None of it is true.

“But I can tell you that in the group, it was all fine. And when I play, the more important issue is the team. But in the match against Spain, we all had a share of responsibility.

“We’ve all got our personalities, our ideas. What matters is to be tolerant, to make efforts. Everybody wanted the same thing, to go far in this competition. But there was a good vibe, unlike what was said.”

Cabaye was one of the stand-out French performers of the tournament, playing so well in midfield that Blanc described him as ‘irreplaceable’.

The midfielder scored against Ukraine in a 2-0 win, and enhanced his reputation.

“I think that the Euros were positive on a personal level,” added Cabaye. “To represent the country for me is very important.”

Twitter: @rossgregory9