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Iker Casillas suffers heart attack

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Iker Casillas has been rushed to hospital in Portugal after suffering a heart attack during training.

Casillas, 37, is said to be in a stable condition after the incident which happened at FC Porto’s training ground.

FC Porto have confirmed that Casillas suffered the heart attack and was taken to hospital nearby.

“Iker Casillas suffered an acute myocardial infarction during Wednesday morning training session held at the PortoGaia Training and Training Center in Olival. The session was promptly interrupted to provide assistance to the FC Porto goalkeeper, who is currently at the Hospital CUF Porto. Casillas is well, stable and his heart problem solved.”

The legendary goalkeeper, who captained Spain to their 2010 World Cup and European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012, has spent the last four seasons at Porto after moving on from his incredible 16-year professional career with Real Madrid where he won three Champions League title and five La Liga trophies.

Porto are two points behind Benfica with three games to go in the league, while they also face Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese cup final on May 25. Casillas and his teammates were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool at the quarterfinal stage.

Porto sent out the following message on their Twitter page after the news broke about Casillas.

2014 World Cup Team Preview: Spain

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Getting to know… Spain
If you don’t know Spain, the 2014 World Cup is likely your first – and you’re probably new to international soccer on the whole. La furia roja¬†took top honors in the 2010 tournament in South Africa, then followed it up by beating Italy to become champions of Euro 2012. They also won Euro 2008, making them seem practically invincible.

It may surprise you to know, however, that Spain haven’t always been such high achievers. Prior to 2008, Spain’s last real success came in 1964, when they won the European Championship. It then took twenty years for them to reach the final, while in the World Cup, their greatest success before 2010 was making it to the Round of 16.

Record in qualifying
The World Cup holders were handed a fairly easy group for UEFA qualifying. Group I, the only group to feature just five teams, included Belarus, Finland and Georgia. France were really the only team to give Spain much trouble, hanging on until the death in their tie in Madrid. Persistence paid off, Olivier Giroud scored deep in extra time, and France came away with a point.

Spain’s only real shock in qualifying came last March, when Finland, against the run of play, equalized when ten minutes left to play. That left¬†la roja¬†two points behind France. But Spain went on to win their final four matches, including the reverse fixture against¬†les bleus, and finish top of the group.

A look at Group B

Obviously the number 1-ranked team is going to be seeded, so you’d think that Spain would end up being able to take it easy in the group stages, easily clinching a place in the next round. Not so. Alongside Spain in Group B we have Holland, Chile and Australia. This group could very well be one of the most intriguing to watch.

Netherlands will be determined to extract a little revenge, seeing as Spain beat them in the final four years ago (and the¬†oranje¬†were so impotent in Euro 2012 that the two didn’t even meet). Chile is a solid side with some attacking flair – if they can get the ball, they can likely cause trouble for Spain’s defense. As for Australia, no one expects them to progress, but they could still make life difficult for¬†la roja.

Game schedule

Friday, June 13 at 3 p.m. ET: Spain vs. Netherlands (Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador)

Wednesday, June 18 at 3 p.m. ET: Spain vs. Chile (Estadio do Maracan√£, Rio de Janeiro)

Monday, June 23 at 12 noon ET: Australia vs. Spain (Arena da Baixada, Curitiba)

Star player
Naming the star on Spain’s squad is nigh near impossible. The majority play for Barcelona and Real Madrid, with a scattered few at Chelsea and both Manchester clubs. The least-known player is¬†Ander Iturraspe, yet to be capped for his country, who plays for Champions League-bound Athletico Bilbao.

For Spain, it’s more about leaving the egos in the dressing room in order to come together on the pitch. The team needs to be in tune to play their¬†tiki-taka, possessing, passing, pressing forward. The names of the men that get this done are almost instantly recognizable: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, David Silva.

And, of course, they’re still hoping that¬†Atl√©tico Madrid star Diego Costa will be fit enough to make the trip¬†– for all Spain have going for them, they still lack a little shine up front.

(READ MORE: SPAIN ANNOUNCE 23-MAN WORLD CUP ROSTER)

Manager
Vicente del Bosque was at the helm when Spain lifted the Cup in South Africa, he was there when they took top honors in Euro 2012, and he’s still there, ready to make the last-minute adjustments necessary to ensuring his side make a deep run in Brazil. Del Bosque’s respectful of his players, adored by the Spanish public and, yes, won the World Cup already. There’s not much to find fault with.

Secret weapon
The dazzling brilliance of their goalkeeping kit. Iker Casillas may have played zero La Liga matches this season, and Victor Valdes may be out with injury, but Spain should have no worries about the men between the sticks. They’ll be wearing a glowing light blue shirt, which will be further highlighted by the outfield players’ uniforms: for the first time, Spain will be wearing all red, rather than the traditional red-shirts-with-blue-tops ensemble.

Prediction
When filling out my bracket, I had Spain beating Belgium in the semi-finals…only to end up facing Brazil at the¬†Maracan√£. Sorry,¬†la roja, I just don’t think you’ll lift two consecutive cups.

Of course, if Spain stumble and finish second in their group, they’ll meet Brazil right away, which means they could very well be set for an early exit.

Agree? Disagree?

Spain announces 23-man roster for World Cup

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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¬†Atl√©ti 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¬†Atl√©tico 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)

Report: David Villa the next big name heading to MLS?

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Digging around the rumor mill, some interesting news regarding Spanish international and current Atletico Madrid forward David Villa has surfaced.

Turns out Villa could be heading to Major League Soccer this summer, as Atletico continue to stall on a new contract extension for the 32-year-old former Valencia and FC Barcelona striker, who still has two years left on his initial deal after arriving at the Vicente Calderon last summer.

Villa, the Spanish national team’s all-time leading goalscorer, has shaken off several injury-plagued campaigns to fire in 13 goals in 26 games for Atletico this season but, according to reports, his manager Diego Simeone is willing to let Villa leave after the season ends.

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These reports surface from Spanish publication Marca, and have cropped up elsewhere, but do be warned, in MLS circles such stories are taken with a hefty pinch of salt. As is often the case with aging, yet hugely talented, superstars in Europe, Villa has been linked with MLS almost by association with this glittering career entering its twilight. Let’s see if any of the ‘number of MLS clubs interested’ are actually ready to stump up big Designated Player cash for Villa, before we get too excited.

Will this move ever come off? Who knows. But then again, look at the likes of Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins. Rumors about those three predatory strikers persisted for months before their moves to MLS came off. What I do know, is that if Villa does make the switch to MLS, he would be a sensation.

The diminutive forward will likely play an important role for Spain in this summer’s World Cup, as they look to retain their title from 2010 when Villa scored five goals and was the tournament’s top scorer. With his future seemingly unresolved, could New York City FC or the re-branded Chivas USA franchise be a potential home for Villa after this summer? Let’s wait and see what happens, as Spain’s leading marksmen, apparently, contemplates a move Stateside.

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: V√≠ctor Vald√©s, Reina, Juanfran, Javi Mart√≠nez, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Azpilicueta, Ra√ļl Albiol, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Koke, Thiago Alc√°ntara, Iniesta, Jes√ļs Navas, Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Negredo, Pedro, David Silva