World Cup 2014: Fernando Torres makes the cut, but Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo are dropped from Spain World Cup squad
The Chelsea striker is included alongside injury concern Diego Costa
Saturday 31 May 2014
Diego Costa and Fernando Torres have been included in Spain’s final squad for the World Cup, but the Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo and winger Jesus Navas were left out of Vicente Del Bosque’s 23-man party for Brazil.
Costa was an injury doubt with a hamstring tear after lasting less than 10 minutes for Atlético Madrid in the Champions League final last Saturday and still faces a race against time to be fit for Spain’s first game against the Netherlands on 13 June. But the Brazil-born Spanish national is expected to start ahead of both Torres and David Villa.
While Costa’s inclusion was hardly shocking, Del Bosque’s decision to base Spain’s attack around a forward who has been nagged by a hamstring problem over the final two months of the season is surprising considering the options at his disposal. Negredo enjoyed a flying start to his City career last season but tailed off towards the end of the campaign. However, the Juventus striker Fernando Llorente enjoyed a strong debut season in Serie A with 16 goals. While Llorente was in the Spain team that won the World Cup four years ago and the European Championship in 2012, the Basque striker played just 31 minutes over those two tournaments. Villa, the country’s all-time leading scorer, can play up front or in midfield, while Cesc Fàbregas is expected to reprise his role as an unorthodox striker when needed.
Navas’ long spell on the sidelines has cost him his place despite having recovered from an ankle injury. “Navas is better, in nearly perfect condition but, after two months without any training, we’d like to bring someone who is in better shape,” said Del Bosque.
Torres – who scored only five Premier League goals for Chelsea last season – and Andres Iniesta were on target as Spain beat Bolivia 2-0 in Seville on Friday in the first of two friendlies ahead of their World Cup defence.
Torres calmly stroked home a 51st-minute penalty after Javi Martinez was fouled in the area. Spain controlled play but found it hard to break down a well-organised Bolivia team before Iniesta finally charged forward in the 84th minute to seal victory.
Del Bosque employed an experimental team, trying out different combinations, with key Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid players still missing following the Champions League final last week.
Despite his goal, Torres made little impact in his first appearance for Spain since the Confederations Cup final defeat to Brazil last July. “I have a lot of confidence in Fernando Torres,” Del Bosque insisted. “We’re happy with his work.”
While Juan Mata and Pedro Rodriguez had opportunities to score, it wasn’t until the second-half entrances of Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and David Silva that Spain looked more likely to find the net, with Fabregas also coming on to reprise his role as an unorthodox striker. “We had an encouraging week of training and today was a positive day,” said Iniesta.
Sixteen of the 23 squad players who lifted the World Cup four years ago return. Captain Iker Casillas will start in goal ahead of Pepe Reina and David De Gea, while the versatile Martinez can step in for either Sergio Ramos or Gerard Piqué at centre-back. César Azpilicueta’s strong performance against Bolivia should cement the Chelsea full-back’s place on the right side with Jordi Alba on the left. Fellow full-back Dani Carvajal was omitted despite a strong season for European champion Real Madrid.
Busquets and Xabi Alonso provide midfield cover behind Iniesta, Xavi, Silva and Santi Cazorla, while Koke could enjoy playing time, too, after an outstanding season that saw the Atlético playmaker help lead his team to the Champions League final.
Spain, the reigning champions, are looking to win an unprecedented four straight major championships, having also won the 2008 and 2012 European titles.
They begin their Group B campaign against Holland on 13 June. First they travel to the United States today and then play El Salvador in Washington on 7 June.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), David De Gea (Manchester United)
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City)
Forwards: Pedro (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).
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