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

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

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Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.