Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Spain gear up for 2014 World Cup

WARM-UPS:With qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup looming and following a long break after Euro 2012, European teams are getting back onto the pitch this weekend

AFP, PARIS

Spain’s national soccer team, led by Cesc Fabregas, third left, arrive on Monday at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Photo: Reuters

World champions Spain return to action this week in their first match since retaining their European title, as countries gear up for the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

La Roja, currently No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings, take on Puerto Rico, who are 137 places below them, in Bayamon on Wednesday, with Vicente del Bosque opting to rest Barcelona veterans Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol.

Also omitted from the 19-man squad is 23-year-old winger Jordi Alba, who is rested after his inclusion in Spain’s Olympic soccer side.

Spain were in outstanding form when they beat Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final on July 1 and the Azzurri are looking to pick themselves up from that disappointment with a positive warm-up against England.

The match in the Swiss capital, Bern, is a re-run of the Euro 2012 quarter-final, which Italy won 4-2 on penalties, but they will be without Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli, who has conjunctivitis.

Roy Hodgson had named a young side for the fixture, leaving John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard out as they prepare for the start of the Premier League on Saturday.

Elsewhere, beaten Euro 2012 semi-finalists Germany play Argentina in Frankfurt, with coach Joachim Loew also choosing to rest key players like Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Loew has also left out goalkeeper Tim Wiese, Per Mertesacker in defense and Lukas Podolski up front from the 22 who went to Euro 2012.

First-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has also withdrawn after picking up an injury in last weekend’s Super Cup, which his side Bayern Munich won 2-1, taking revenge on Borussia Dortmund who last season beat them to the Bundesliga title and German Cup.

Miroslav Klose is the only acknowledged centerforward, in the absence of Mario Gomez, who is recovering from a heel operation.

For the Argentinians, Benfica’s Enzo Perez has been called up to replace injured Newell’s Old Boys winger Maxi Rodriguez (knee).

France play Uruguay in the northern city of Le Havre, in Didier Deschamps’ first match in charge.

World Cup 1998 winner Deschamps has left out Yann M’Vila and Hatem Ben Arfa because of disciplinary issues at Euro 2012, while Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez are serving suspensions for misconduct.

The former Marseille manager has called up Paris Saint-Germain’s Christophe Jallet, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Etienne Capoue of Toulouse for the first time.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa of Ligue 1 champions Montpellier makes a return, but there was no place for Chelsea midfielder Florent Malouda, Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye, Valencia’s Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes of AC Milan.

In other matches, former England boss Fabio Capello takes charge of Russia for the first time in their game against Ivory Coast in Moscow and has included controversial captain Andrei Arshavin.

Russia crashed out of Euro 2012 at the group stage and Arshavin found himself on the receiving end of a wave of criticism for dismissing the team’s below-par performance as a problem for the fans rather than the players.

Another manager returning to international action is Louis van Gaal, who took over from Bert van Marwijk as Dutch coach after the Oranje’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, in which they lost all their matches.

The Dutch play Marc Wilmot’s Belgium in Brussels.

World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil, who do not have to qualify, take on Sweden in Solna.

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