Pitchside

Cisse’s ‘Operation World Cup’ gets off to bad start

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After five and a half years away, Djibril Cisse is back in his home country and is hoping a return to Ligue 1 can help him win an unlikely place in France's World Cup squad, but a disappointing debut for Bastia showed just how far down the pecking order he finds himself.

Cisse is one of the most colourful footballers around. This is the man who wore a skirt on his birthday night out in London while a Queens Park Rangers player and who was rejected by Montpellier last summer because their outspoken president Louis Nicollin decided he didn't want a DJ, in reference to one of Cisse's off-field hobbies.

He has enjoyed a colourful career too, featuring prolific spells at Auxerre, Marseille and Panathinaikos and a role in Liverpool's unlikely Champions League triumph in 2005. But he has lost his way of late, with disappointing times in Qatar and over the last six months in Russia with Kuban Krasnodar.

He therefore jumped at the chance to come back to Ligue 1 when Bastia offered him an 18-month contract. Now 32, Cisse has his sights set on scoring the six goals needed to reach the 100 mark in Ligue 1 and on convincing Didier Deschamps to take him to Brazil.

"I am doing everything to get there, but it is not something I dream about at night. It is an objective," says Cisse, who won the last of his 41 caps in October 2011. He is confident that there is a place to be had in the squad behind Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema and is spurred on by past frustrations at international level, including missing the 2006 World Cup after breaking a leg in Les Bleus' final pre-tournament friendly.

At Bastia - his 10th club - he will play alongside France squad member Mickael Landreau and he believes his new environment can help him relaunch his career.

Last week, he told sports daily L'Equipe: "The way the coach (Frédéric Hantz) spoke to me, I could feel that he wanted me. At certain clubs, the president or the sporting director wants you, but the coach is not too keen. Here, everyone wanted me. And I already know some of the players who were excited about me coming. It reminds me of Panathinaikos, the atmosphere, the supporters, the warmth of the people. "

He made his Bastia debut against Valenciennes on Saturday. 'Operation World Cup 2014', as L'Equipe described it, had begun. But, thrust into the starting line-up at the Stade du Hainaut, it was a chastening evening.

He struggled to make an impression and was taken off after an hour with Bastia 3-0 down. His replacement, the Brazilian Ilan, set up one goal and then scored another as the Corsicans almost completed a remarkable comeback.

Cisse, who refused to talk to the media after the game, will now be well aware of the size of the task he has set himself. But, given time, he will surely have an impact back in France, and the same can be said of another striker who has returned home this month.

Former Paris Saint-Germain frontman Guillaume Hoarau has penned a six-month deal with Bordeaux as he seeks a fresh start following a disastrous year in China with Dalian Aerbin. There, after scoring just twice in 18 games, he was relegated from the first team, told to train on his own and then dropped to the reserves. The club even allegedly stopped paying him because they were so unhappy with his performances.

Drawn by the huge salary on offer, Hoarau simply made a mistake in opting to go to China when a move to England appeared a very real possibility. But it is not too late for Hoarau to become a star again.

He has the pedigree, having scored 17 goals for PSG in his first top-flight season in 2008-09 and netted the winner against Monaco in the French Cup final the following year. He has won five caps for France too.

Like Cisse, his was a losing debut, but Hoarau had an impact in his first game for Les Girondins. He came off the bench in the second half of the 1-0 home loss to Toulouse, but showed off his aerial prowess right from the off and almost set up a late equaliser before saying: "I was pleased to be back in Ligue 1. I am missing that little something extra but I am going to work to get it back."

Cisse also has something to prove.

Andy Scott - @andpscott

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