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Villa back in Spain squad for WCup qualifier

Associated Press Modified: August 31, 2012 at 7:47 am •  Published: August 31, 2012
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MADRID (AP) — Barcelona striker David Villa will return to Spain's squad for a World Cup qualifier after missing the European Championship because of injury.

Villa is among 23 players named for the defending champion's first Group I qualifier at Georgia on Sept. 11, plus a friendly match against Saudi Arabia in Pontevedra next Friday.

Villa's last appearance for the European champions was nearly 10 months ago in Costa Rica before he fractured his right leg in December, forcing him to miss the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

"Normally Villa shouldn't have come as he hasn't really played much but we think it will give him an extra lift," coach Vicente del Bosque was quoted as saying by Spanish media. "All of the information we have suggests he's in good shape, he's our country's top scorer and whether he plays or not we think it was opportune that he come."

The 30-year-old Villa enters in place of Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, who has been sidelined by his club since the start of the season because of contract squabbles. Javi Martinez, who transferred to Bayern Munich from Athletic, was also left out for the same reason.

"I spoke with (Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes) and he was worried about the irregular preseason he had," Del Bosque said. "It's a bad signal that players from Athletic haven't got a presence but Javi, until a few days ago, and Llorente have been going through an uncomfortable situation."

Del Bosque said he left Juan Mata out of the squad after the Chelsea playmaker competed at both the European Championship and Olympics, as did Martinez.

Andres Iniesta, winner of UEFA's Best Player in Europe award, leads a relatively unchanged squad from the one at Euro 2012, with Chelsea striker Fernando Torres set to make his 100th international appearance.

Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso are among five Real Madrid players in the team, while there are seven from Barcelona. Xavi Hernandez returns after skipping August's 2-1 friendly win at Puerto Rico.

Valencia striker Roberto Soldado makes the team after missing the cut for Euro 2012, as do Malaga back Ignacio Monreal and Real Betis midfielder Benat Etxebarria.

France, Belarus and Finland are also in Spain's qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), Victor Valdes (Barcelona).

Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Ignacio Monreal (Malaga), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid).

Midfielders: Benat Etxebarria (Real Betis), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona).

Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Roberto Soldado (Valencia), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), David Villa (Barcelona).


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