Fernando Torres believes he can make Spain’s World Cup squad

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Fernando Torres believes his preparation and the quality of matches he’s playing at Chelsea are the key components to his making Spain’s World Cup squad.

“Those who go must be the best prepared and that’s why you have a coach who picks the squad,” Torres said in an interview published in AS on Thursday.

The Chelsea striker, who turns 30-years-old today, has scored 35 goals in 106 appearances for Spain.

As a member of Spain’s 2006 World Cup team Torres scored three goals in four matches before La Furia Roja was knocked out of the tournament by runners-up France in the second round. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Torres played in all seven of Spain’s matches to the title but failed to score.

To be selected for a third straight World Cup, Torres’ plan is straightforward: “I will work, which is the only thing I know how to do.” Noting that “the final part of the (club) season is very important,” Torres explained that “[t]he more important matches you play and the more things you are fighting for the greater the demands and that is when I have performed best.”

There’s no question that Chelsea’s end of the season schedule is packed with important matches. The Blues currently sit 1st in the Premier League with eight matches to play. Four points ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal (who have a game-in-hand) and six points ahead of Manchester City (who boast three games-in-hand), the Premier League title is expected to be decided on the final day of the competition, May 11th. In Europe, Chelsea are one of two Premier League sides through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League where tomorrow’s draw will decide who Jose Mourinho’s side will play in a two-legged matchup over the first two weeks of April.

The issue, however, is how much of an impact Torres will have across that time period. Mourinho has preferred a rotation of Torres and Samuel Eto’o throughout the season, opting for the former to operate against defenses that drop deep and the latter against opposition that close space tight. In Tuesday evening’s 2-0 victory over Galatasaray it was Eto’o who started and scored the club’s opener. Torres, brought on as a 85th minute substitute, failed to score on one the clear-cut opportunity presented to him.

It’s that kind of lack of killer instinct in front of goal that has plagued Torres over the last few years. This season the Spaniard has netted just four times in 22 Premier League appearances for Chelsea. The failure to take his chances, combined with the strong play of other strikers competing for Spain’s squad, raise question marks concerning Torres’ likelihood of going to Brazil.

Alvaro Negredo, by comparison, has enjoyed a fantastic season at Manchester City scoring nine goals in 24 matches. Torres’ old strike-partner for Spain, David Villa, has also enjoyed a boon this year scoring 13 goals in 26 La Liga matches for Atletico Madrid while Juventus striker Fernando Llorente is up for consideration having scored 11 times in 25 games for the Serie A side.

Then, of course, there’s Diego Costa, the Brazlian-born Atletico striker who successfully filed his one-time switch to Spain earlier this season. Largely considered one of the best pure Number 9’s on the planet, Costa currently boasts 22 goals in 27 La Liga matches (and 30 in all competitions).

Factor in Vincente del Bosque’s preference to utilize, at most, a single striker lineup and that Torres was left out of the Spanish manager’s most recent squad, and things are not looking bright for the Chelsea striker. But like the 30-year-old astutely points out, he’s a member of a club involved in big time matches. If El Nino can manage to turn back the clock, put forth some big time performances and capitalize on opportunities, he just might get himself on that plane to Brazil.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia