Fernando Torres was
reluctantly dropped from the Spain squad for a friendly against
Venezuela by coach Vicente del Bosque on Friday, raising fresh
doubts about the underperforming Chelsea striker's Euro 2012
Spain face the vastly-improved South Americans in Malaga on
Wednesday and while Del Bosque stressed there could still be
changes to his roster before the June tournament in Ukraine and
Poland, Torres will struggle to make the cut unless his form
Losing his place with the world and European champions is
the latest setback in a dramatic turnaround for the 27-year-old,
who netted Spain's winner in the final of Euro 2008 against
Germany but has seen his scoring touch almost completely desert
him since joining Chelsea from Liverpool just over a year ago.
"His performances recently have been a bit irregular," Del
Bosque told a news conference at the Spanish football federation's
headquarters outside Madrid.
"It does not mean that he is not a special and charismatic
player, who has represented his country many times," the former
Real Madrid coach added.
"He is a lad we appreciate a great deal and it pains me to
leave him out but I wanted to be fair to those lads who are
pushing for a place."
Del Bosque, who is without Spain's injured all-time top
scorer David Villa but hopes to have him back for Euro 2012,
said he wanted to reward form players and recalled Valencia
striker Roberto Soldado for the first time since June 2007.
He also handed Athletic Bilbao's 19-year-old forward Iker
Muniain his first call-up to the senior squad and included
strikers Fernando Llorente, also of Bilbao, and Alvaro Negredo
Another notable absentee was Barcelona forward Pedro, a
World Cup-winner with Spain in South Africa in 2010 whose season
has been disrupted by injury.
Torres has endured a terrible run since he moved to London
for a British record 50 million pounds and is
unrecognisable from the player that was beloved for his scoring
exploits at Liverpool and his boyhood club Atletico Madrid.
He scored one goal for Chelsea in 18 appearances last season
and this season has been equally unproductive.
He has four goals in 29 appearances and has not found the
net since October 19 when he grabbed two against Genk of Belgium in
a Champions League match.
He scored his last Premier League goal
five months ago in a 4-1 win over Swansea on September 24 - and was
sent off minutes later.
His winning goal in the Euro 2008 final in Vienna, which
made him an instant hero back home, seems like a distant memory.
He last struck for Spain in a Euro 2012 qualifier against
Liechtenstein in September 2010 when he scored twice in a 4-0 win
but has not found the net for his country in three appearances
He has a total of 27 goals in 91 appearances.
"Torres should not take his bad run of form as a negative
thing but as a stimulus," Del Bosque said. "Football is about
being continually alive and the group always has to be alive to
compete at the highest level.
"It is in no way a definitive decision. It's a basic list
but not the final one for the European Championships."
Soldado, 26, has represented Spain twice before, in June
2007, when he failed to score. He has netted 12 goals for
Valencia in La Liga this season and scored five in the Champions
League group stage.
Spain won all eight of their qualifiers for Euro 2012 and
finished top of Group I. They are in Group C for the finals
along with Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia.
Squad for Venezuela friendly:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Victor Valdes
(Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool).
Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real
Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Barcelona),
Jordi Alba (Valencia), Andoni Iraola (Athletic Bilbao), Javi
Martinez (Athletic Bilbao).
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara
(Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets
(Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Xavi (Barcelona), Andres
Forwards: David Silva (Manchester City), Iker Muniain
(Athletic Bilbao), Roberto Soldado (Valencia), Fernando Llorente
(Athletic Bilbao), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Jesus Navas (Sevilla),
Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla).
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