Mata and Torres miss out for Spain
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa and Bayern Munich playmaker Thiago Alcantara have been included in the Spain squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Italy, but Manchester United’s recent £37 million signing Juan Mata and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres both failed to make the cut.
Veterans of Spain’s 2010 World Cup success including Alvaro Arbeloa, Fernando Llorente, Carles Puyol and La Roja’s all-time record goalscorer David Villa are among the other big names left out for the match at the Estadio Vicente Calderon in Madrid, which represents Spain’s final friendly before Vicente Del Bosque names his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil.
The 63-year-old boss told the news conference at which the squad was announced that enough time remained for those omitted to play well enough to make him change his mind.
“There are more than two important players who are left out,” Del Bosque said. “But this list is just for Italy. There is time in front of us, three months of competition, and many things could happen that ratify this list or make us bring others.”
Arbeloa’s absence was a surprise, with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran Torres getting the call at full-back instead. Del Bosque said he wanted to get a closer look at the versatile Azpilicueta in particular.
“Of course there are some who are not coming who have done a lot to deserve it,” he continued. “But we believe that Azpilicueta is playing well at Chelsea and we are going to watch him up close. His versatility is useful for us.”
Atletico's Brazil-born striker was called up by Spain in November -- only for injury to stop him making his debut for his adopted country -- and he has been given another opportunity to prove he merits a call-up for the summer.
“I have not spoken to him [recently] but the federation have called him to make sure he was still thinking the same,” Del Bosque said. “This list is not final for Brazil. It is a unique case because he had never come with us before, and for him being born in Brazil. But he is a player who comes because of what he has done for his club. We have decided he can help us.”
Bayern Munich duo Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez had also been rewarded for their excellent performances this season, Del Bosque said, while maintaining that the latter could provide valuable cover in both midfield and defence.
“We cannot consider Thiago a new arrival, he is playing very well for Bayern Munich,” he said. “They are one of best teams in Europe and he is a starter there. Javi Martinez can play in two positions. We can use him as a central midfielder or a centre-half.”
Manchester City trio Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and David Silva and Arsenal's Santi Cazorla have retained their squad places, but recent Manchester United signing Mata has apparently paid the price for indifferent club form this season.
Emerging Real Madrid duo Jese Rodriguez and Dani Carvajal were not named, but Atletico midfielder Koke is in again and looks certain to travel to Brazil. World Cup 2010 winner Puyol is not included despite Gerard Pique being unavailable due to a minor thigh injury.
Del Bosque asserted the meeting with the Azzurri -- a repeat of the Euro 2012 final -- would again provide a stiff test for this side.
“They are one of the world’s big national teams,” he said. “They have Juventus as a base, and are playing very strong games, like the first game of Euro 2012, the two from the Confederations Cup, one of them agonising with extra-time when they were just as strong as we were. And the final [of Euro 2012], which was for sure our best game of recent years.”
The La Roja squad are due to gather at the national football headquarters at Las Rozas in suburban Madrid on Monday, where a number of adverts will be filmed with the Spanish FA’s commercial partners.
An opening training session is set for Tuesday evening at Atletico’s Calderon ground, where fans will be granted free admission to watch Del Bosque put his side through their paces ahead of the clash with the Italians.
Ahead of the World Cup it has also been confirmed that Spain’s squad for the tournament will meet up on Monday, May 26 -- two days after this season’s Champions League final --- and will play a friendly against Bolivia at Sevilla’s Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday, May 30.
The holders’ first game at the finals is against beaten 2010 finalists Holland in Salvador de Bahia on Friday, June 13, followed by Chile on June 18 in Rio de Janeiro and a final group game against Australia on June 23 in Curitiba.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas [Real Madrid], Pepe Reina [Napoli], Victor Valdes [Barcelona]
Defenders: Juanfran Torres [Atletico Madrid], Javi Martinez [Bayern Munich], Sergio Ramos [Real Madrid], Jordi Alba [Barcelona], Cesar Azpilicueta [Chelsea], Raul Albiol [Napoli].
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso [Real Madrid], Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta & Cesc Fabregas [Barcelona], Koke [Atletico Madrid], Thiago Alcantara [Bayern], Jesus Navas & David Silva [Man City], Santi Cazorla [Arsenal].
Attackers: Diego Costa [Atletico], Alvaro Negredo [Man City], Pedro Rodriguez [Barca].