Spain announces 23-man roster for World Cup


On Saturday, Vicente del Bosque announced the 23-man squad that will represent Spain in the 2014 World Cup. The biggest news is that, despite his injury woes, Atlético Madrid star Diego Costa is included in the squad.

Of course, with Spain, the story’s often more about who’s staying home than who’s headed to the World Cup. Some of the choices made by del Bosque seem curious.

After scoring against Bolivia in Spain’s friendly on Friday evening, Fernando Torres is included in the final list – despite having just five goals for Chelsea this season. However, that means Fernando Llorente, who netted sixteen for Juventus in Serie A, stays home. Considering Llorente offers a much different option and could fill in for Costa should the Atléti man’s fitness fail once more, this seems rather short-sighted from del Bosque.

The coach has also eliminated Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal, who played 31 games for his side this season, while bringing the aging Juanfran, who’s struggling with fitness. Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno also didn’t make the cut.

Despite speculation that Juan Mata wouldn’t make the trip, the Manchester United man is included in the final 23. That’s at the expense of others such as Ander Iturraspe of Athletic Bilbao and Jesus Navas of Manchester City. Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara withdrew with injury.

Navas’s City teammate, Alvaro Negredo, also didn’t make the cut, with Barcelona’s Pedro and Atlético Madrid’s David Villa round out del Bosque’s forwards.

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David De Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Raul Albiol (Napoli)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United)

Forwards: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.