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Juan Mata and Fernando Torres dropped by Spain

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We all know reigning World and European champions Spain have a wealth of talented players to choose from.

But this is pretty incredible.

Spanish head coach Vicente del Bosque has dropped stars Juan Mata and Fernando Torres from his squad to face Italy in a friendly next Wednesday, with both players left in the lurch ahead of the World Cup this summer in Brazil.

Torres, 29, has over 100 caps for Spain and has 36 goals for his country. The Chelsea forward, who is still the Premier League’s most expensive ever player following his $75 million move in 2011, scored the winning goal for Spain in the Euro 2008 final and has been a mainstay for almost a decade.

As for Mata, the diminutive magician has recently joined Manchester United for a club record $54 million and is deemed to be one of the greatest playmakers in the PL. But now, just like he feared, Mata will have to battle hard just to get on the plane to Brazil. With regular soccer evading him at Chelsea, Mata moved to United to try and force his way back into the starting lineup for Spain. Now, it’s all about getting in that 23-man squad.

Do Torres and Mata deserve to be in the Spain squad?

On talent alone, it’s hard to leave them out, but both players have struggled to play regularly at Chelsea this season as Torres has been out injured for large spells, while Mata was out of favor under Jose Mourinho. Mata’s place is perhaps most under-threat as the likes of Santi Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Andres Iniesta are all ahead of him. That’s a daunting task to overtake those chaps in the final few months of the season. As for Torres, he has Diego Costa and Alvaro Negredo to deal with, while Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer David Villa has also surprisingly been left out of the squad.

Their omissions are good news for some people though: fans of Manchester United and Chelsea. Expect Mata and Torres to have splendid finishes to the season as the aim to push hard and put in some superb displays to book their seat on the plane to Brazil.

Spain squad vs. Italy: Víctor Valdés, Reina, Juanfran, Javi Martínez, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Azpilicueta, Raúl Albiol, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Koke, Thiago Alcántara, Iniesta, Jesús Navas, Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Negredo, Pedro, David Silva

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

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[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).