Spain’s preliminary 30-player squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil included most of the key players that helped the country win its last three major tournaments, with Brazil-born striker Diego Costa the highest-profile newcomer.
The defending champions sent their preliminary list to FIFA on Tuesday, with coach Vicente del Bosque to announce the final 23-man squad on May 25.
Costa is set to lead the attack in his native Brazil, with Atletico Madrid teammate David Villa and Chelsea’s Fernando Torres also included, while Manchester United’s David de Gea replaces Barcelona’s in-form but injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Fullback Alvaro Arbeloa, who has been part of Spain’s two European Championship triumphs and its World Cup win in South Africa, was left out despite returning from a long-term injury. Real Madrid teammate Dani Carvajal fills his spot.
In all, 18 of the 23 players who were in South Africa were included in the preliminary squad.
Spain begins Group B play against the Netherlands on June 13 in Salvador in a rematch of the 2010 final which it won 1-0 after extra time.
Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo is also included, although Del Bosque could again opt to use Cesc Fabregas as a “false” striker up front. Villa is Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer while Torres scored in the finals of its Euro 2008 and ‘12 victories, but at least one of them is likely to be dropped from the final squad of 23.
Del Bosque also called on Spain regulars Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla, with creative Madrid midfielder Isco left out. Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Iturraspe was a surprise inclusion.
Andres Iniesta, who scored the winner in the final at Soccer City four years ago, is in midfield alongside Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Koke, and Thiago Alcantara, who was included despite missing the end of Bayern Munich’s season because of an injury.
Goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas will play in his fourth World Cup, while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique will anchor Spain’s defence. Javi Martinez is also available at center back or in a holding midfield role alongside Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso.
With Jordi Alba set to start at left back, Carvajal looks set to fill Arbeloa’s place on the right, with Juanfran Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta also available. Carvajal has yet to make an appearance for Spanish national team.
Spain faces Chile in Rio de Janeiro on June 18 before closing group play against Australia on June 23 in Curitiba.
Rossi in for italy
Turin: Strikers Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni missed out, while the injury-plagued Giuseppe Rossi and controversial forward Antonio Cassano were included in Italy’s 30-man provisional World Cup squad named on Tuesday.
Coach Cesare Prandelli also selected Giorgio Chiellini, a move which is likely to stir up more controversy as the announcement came one day after the key defender was banned for three club matches for elbowing an opponent.
Rossi, sidelined for nearly two years with an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee, made an impressive comeback this season until suffering another, lesser injury to the same knee in January. He has only just made his latest return, scoring in a Serie A match against Sassuolo a week ago. (reuters)
Nasri misses out
Paris: Samir Nasri, who was instrumental in helping Manchester City to win the Premier League title, was left out of France’s World Cup squad when Didier Deschamps unveiled a 23-man list plus seven standby players on Tuesday.
Nasri, who has a reputation of being a troublemaker and was disappointing in Les Bleus’s playoff first leg against Ukraine last year, was a notable absentee along with defender Eric Abidal.
Abidal, who has been used sparingly by Claudio Ranieri at Monaco during the second part of the season, has been deemed not good enough to travel to Brazil. French radio RMC reported that Abidal, 34, was retiring from international football. (reuters)
Chile hope for Vidal
Santiago: Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal was named in Chile’s provisional 30-man World Cup squad on Tuesday though doubts linger about whether he will recover from his knee surgery in time for the Brazil finals.
Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez and Valencia striker Eduardo Vargas were also called up.
Conspicuously absent were striker Humberto ‘Lollipop’ Suazo, a veteran of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, who has only just come back from a long injury layoff in Mexico, and midfielder David Pizarro. (Reuters)
Yaya an injury concern
Abidjan: Injury concerns over Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba are undermining Ivory Coast’s preparations for the World Cup, coach Sabri Lamouchi said on Tuesday. Lamouchi also admitted he was gambling on the Everton striker Lacina Traore, who has played just one minute of English Premier League soccer since February. Toure’s fitness is an issue after the midfielder was taken off as Manchester City clinched the English Premier League title with a 2-0 victory over West Ham on Sunday.
Lamouchi said Drogba’s recovery from recent groin surgery was being closely followed. (Reuters)
Van Gaal to go ‘old school’
Hoenderloo: Netherlands will take a risk by adopting an old school 5-3-2 system at next month’s World Cup in Brazil, coach Louis van Gaal said on Tuesday.
Van Gaal, however, refused to name his provisional 30-man squad until later in the day because he wanted to personally inform those who had not been selected.
The coach said he would use his 5-3-2 strategy partly due to the absence of AS Roma’s defensive midfielder Kevin Strootman who will miss out on the finals after suffering a serious knee injury in March. Strootman was one of three players who had been guaranteed a place in the squad – the others being Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
“I have three reasons to change the system. The injury to Strootman, the fact we don’t have enough quality left backs and because I want to play with a minimum of three creative players at the World Cup,” he told a news conference at the team’s Hoenderloo training camp.
“It is a system in which the players can show their strength. It is old school Dutch style. I had a word with my captains Van Persie and Robben about it first and they were both enthusiastic.”
Van Gaal said it was a gamble because the players would have little time to practice the system ahead of their Group B fixtures with holders Spain, Chile and Australia. “We could always go back to 4-3-3, that’s not too difficult, even during a match,” he added.
Van Gaal’s plans to change to 5-3-2 were revealed last week by defender Joel Veltman. “He said it in all innocence and it’s no bother,” the coach said. “In any case everyone would have been able to see it when we play Ecuador in our friendly so it really doesn’t matter.”
The Dutch meet Ecuador in Amsterdam on Saturday in the first of three planned warm-up internationals. Ghana and Wales are their other pre-World Cup opponents. Van Gaal, who is expected to take over at managerless Manchester United at the end of the World Cup, said he used the last week of training with Dutch-based players in order to work on defensive organisation.