Spain leave Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso out of World Cup squad on collectionfifatips

Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui brings clarity to his decision to leave Alvaro Morata off of La Roja’s 23-man World Cup squad.
Ian Darke leads an expert panel to assess Spain’s World Cup hopes and whether Julen Lopetegui will be able to sort the attack of Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.
After Andres Iniesta’s last game for Barca, the FC crew assess his place among Spain’s greats and whether he can go out on top at the World Cup.
Spain has shared the goal scoring load quite a bit over the last two years.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has left Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Alonso out of his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia but included Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal.

Morata, who scored five goals in qualifying, had been a regular in Lopetegui’s squads until March, when he was dropped after losing his starting place at Chelsea.

Alonso was widely tipped to make the squad after impressing this season in the Premier League. He had seven goals in 33 league starts, but Lopetegui elected to take Monreal, who plays the same position.

“Monreal has come with us many times,” Lopetegui said at a news conference on Monday. “We know him well and we are convinced he will help us.”

There are six players from Real Madrid in the World Cup squad, including Spain captain Sergio Ramos and midfielder Isco, a key player for Lopetegui but one who is unlikely to start in Madrid’s Champions League final against Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday.

“I want to remember those players that were crucial in qualifying and helped us, including Alvaro Morata, Marc Bartra [and] Vitolo, but have not made the squad,” Lopetegui said. “I spoke to those that I thought that I had to speak to.

“It’s not easy to give 23 players and the doubt always exists. In the case of Morata, he’s had a complex season but he could have come. He hasn’t because another player has convinced us more.”

Morata, in his first season at Chelsea following a move from Madrid, has struggled with a back injury and played just four minutes in his team’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Following his omission, Morata sent a message of support to the squad, which read: “The best of luck for the World Cup!! As of right now I will be supporting and cheering until the end as I’ve always done!!”

Lopetegui has included ex-Chelsea forward Diego Costa, who made 20 appearances in all competitions after returning to play for Atletico Madrid in January.

With Costa, Atletico finished runners-up to Barcelona in La Liga and also won the Europa League.

La Liga’s top scoring Spanish players, Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno, are also in. Aspas has scored 20 goals for Celta Vigo and Rodrigo’s 16 goals helped Valencia finish in fourth place and qualify for the Champions League.

Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who kept 18 clean sheets in the league to win his first Premier League Golden Glove, joins Monreal, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Manchester City’s David Silva as the Premier League players in the squad.

Veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta, who played his final game for Barcelona on Sunday and will retire from international football after the World Cup, has made the squad.

Barca teammates Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have also been included.

Spain, who went unbeaten in qualifying, play a warm-up game against Switzerland at the Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal on June 3. They will travel to Russia four days later and take on Tunisia in Krasnodar in their final preparation game on June 9.

“A World Cup is the most beautiful and challenging competition there is,” Lopetegui said. “We only have three games guaranteed. The rest we have to earn it there.”

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Portugal on June 15 in Sochi and also take on Iran and Morocco in Group B.

Spain’s 23-player squad:

Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli)

Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho (Real Madrid), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid)

Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

Belgium World Cup squad: Radja Nainggolan left out by boss Roberto Martinez –

Paul Mariner says the World Cup will be a sadder place without Radja Nainggolan, after the midfielder was left out of Belgium’s provisional squad.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez explains why he didn’t select Radja Nainggolan for the 2018 World Cup squad.
ESPN FC’s Alexis Nunes talks World Cup expectations with Belgium defender Vincent Kompany and what Roberto Martinez brings to the table.
Ian Darke likens Belgium to a band who can never get a number one. The ESPN panel question if Roberto Martinez can get it right for Belgium’s golden generation.

Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne have all been included in Belgium’s preliminary World Cup squad but there is no place for Roma’s Radja Nainggolan.

Chelsea star Hazard, Manchester United forward Lukaku and De Bruyne of Manchester City were all named in the 28-man selection made public by national team coach Roberto Martinez on Monday.

Nainggolan, however, was a notable absentee. The midfielder — who was only named on the reserve list for the 2014 World Cup but played in all five of the national team’s Euro 2016 matches, scoring in the quarterfinal loss to Wales — had declared last summer he was retiring from international football after being initially snubbed by Martinez.

“Very reluctantly my international career comes to an end,” Nainggolan wrote on Instagram after the squad was announced. I’ve always done everything I could to represent my country. Being yourself can be bothering. From this day on I will be the first fan.”

The former Swansea City and Everton boss did, however, call up the 30-year-old for November’s friendlies with Mexico and Japan, only for Nainggolan to be forced to withdraw through injury.

After convincing performances for his club in both Serie A and the Champions League, Nainggolan featured for just over half an hour in March’s friendly win over Saudi Arabia, winning his 30th cap.

“It’s a tactical reason,” Martinez said at a news conference announcing the squad. “Over the last two years, we have worked in a very attacking way, a very specific system and manner, and other players had those roles. Radja has a very important role in his club, and I don’t feel we can give him that in the national team. He’s not a player to be used in a small role.”

Martinez said he had taken the unusual step of visiting Rome on Sunday to see Nainggolan in person before deciding to leave him out.

“I respect Radja,” Martinez said. “He’s not a young player. He’s got great experience. I value his opinion.

“I didn’t tell him he wasn’t in the squad. I travelled to share some thoughts and the decision was made after the meeting. I was able to look into his eyes. It was a difficult conversation to have. I appreciate his honesty. I was glad to be able to see him before I made a decision.”

Liverpool’s Divock Origi, who spent last season on loan at Wolfsburg, and Everton forward Kevin Mirallas, who joined former club Olympiacos on a temporary basis in January, also missed out, but there was room for Christian Benteke.

The former Liverpool striker struggled for game time and goals at Crystal Palace last term, but with Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi both coming back from late-season injuries, Martinez said he needed a back-up option ahead of starting their Group G campaign against Panama on June 18 before also facing Tunisia and England.

“Christian is a player who can bring a different No. 9 style,” Maritnez said of Benteke, who won the last of his 33 caps in September 2017. “Given the concerns we have over the other No. 9s, it was a necessity for us to have another one.

“He’s had a difficult season, but I think he’s used to working in that environment, and is experienced enough to perform for the national team. Look at the goals he scored in qualifying. He was in impressive form. We didn’t call him up in March because I didn’t need to see him, but it didn’t affect what we thought of him.”

Martinez said another of his injured players, Thomas Vermaelen, “deserves as much time as we can give him” to recover from a hamstring injury that ruled him out of Barcelona’s last league game of the season.

Another defender, Lazio’s Jordan Lukaku, will also be assessed at the Red Devils’ training camp, which starts on Tuesday ahead of their June 4 warm-up game against Portugal.

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was also named to the preliminary squad despite losing his place as the No. 1 to Loris Karius in January. Mignolet, who started the friendly against Saudi Arabia, has not featured for Liverpool since January.

Martinez also had no problem including two Chinese Super League midfielders — Yannick Carrasco and Axel Witzel — as well as defender Laurent Ciman, who is with MLS side LAFC.

Defender Vincent Kompany, who will make his second World Cup appearance, told ESPN FC that he appreciates the way Martinez approaches his position.

“I think Roberto thinks a lot about the game,” Kompany said. “He has the knowledge about the game that you can expect from a top, top manager and he gives a lot of responsibility to his players so you don’t get treated like schoolchildren. You have a role to play, and with an experienced team like ours now, I think it’s a good combination.”

Belgium’s 28-player squad

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Matz Sels (Newcastle United)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Laurent Ciman (LAFC), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Christian Kabasele (Watford), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jordan Lukaku (Lazio), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli)

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

collectionfifatips | Italy appoint Roberto Mancini as new national team manager

Craig Burley responds to the reaction out of Italy following Roma’s Champions League exit, saying people in Italian football need to wake up.

Roberto Mancini is the new coach of the Italy national team, the Italian Football Federation announced on Monday.

The move comes one day after Mancini agreed to terminate his contract as manager of Zenit St Petersburg, which paved the way for him to negotiate his Italy deal.

Mancini reportedly signed a two-year deal, though the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) did not give any details about his contract in announcing his appointment. He will be presented at a news conference on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old former Manchester City and Inter Milan manager failed to lead Zenit to a Champions League qualification spot for next season.

With Italy, Mancini will replace Giampiero Ventura, who was sacked in November after the Azzurri failed to reach the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

As well as Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte had been linked with the position, which had been held by caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio, the coach of Italy’s under-21 side.

Mancini, who won 36 caps for Italy as a player, led City to the Premier League title in 2011-12 after three Serie A title wins with Inter.

Since leaving the Etihad in 2013 he has managed Galatasaray and Inter again before being appointed Zenit boss last June.


Peru captain Paolo Guerrero to miss World Cup after doping ban extended on collectionfifatips

Paolo Guerrero will not be able to play at the World Cup.

Peru captain Paolo Guerrero will miss the World Cup after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency to increase the length of his drugs ban.

Guerrero was initially banned for 12 months after testing positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, following Peru’s World Cup qualifier with Argentina in October last year.

Accepting Guerrero’s argument that the substance was accidentally consumed in contaminated tea, FIFA reduced the ban to six months, a period which would have enabled Guerrero to play in Russia, and he was duly named in Peru’s provisional squad on Sunday.

But CAS have increased Guerrero’s suspension from six to 14 months on the basis that he did bear “some fault or negligence” for the positive test, and must therefore face a ban of between one and two years under FIFA’s own anti-doping rules.

A CAS statement read: “The CAS panel confirmed the existence of an ADRV [anti-doping rule violation] committed by Mr Guerrero, but also accepted that he did not attempt to enhance his performance by ingesting the prohibited substance.

“However, the panel considered that the player did bear some fault or negligence, even if it was not significant, and that he could have taken some measures to prevent him from committing the ADRV.

“Considering that, in case of no significant fault or negligence, the sanction should, in accordance with the applicable FIFA rules, be in the range of one to two years of suspension, the CAS panel considered that the appropriate sanction would be 14 months in light of the Mr Guerrero’s degree of fault.”

Guerrero had also filed a case to CAS in an effort to be absolved of the original sanction, which ended this month. His case and that of WADA were consolidated into a single case in Lausanne.

Guerrero’s absence will be a big blow for Peru, who are preparing for their first World Cup finals since 1982.

Capped 86 times for his country, the experienced striker plays for the Brazilian club Flamengo.

collectionfifatips – Paris Saint-Germain appoint Thomas Tuchel as coach to replace Unai Emery

With Thomas Tuchel rumoured to the top choice to take over at PSG, the ESPN FC guys question if he has what it takes to succeed in the French capital.
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley assesses the interest in former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel and whether or not he belongs at a top club.

Paris Saint-Germain have appointed Thomas Tuchel as their new coach, replacing Unai Emery after two years at the helm, the French champions announced on Monday.

Tuchel was most recently the coach at Borussia Dortmund but parted ways in May 2017 amid reported disagreements with the club hierarchy, despite guiding the club to the DFB Pokal title three days earlier. He signed a two-year contract with PSG.

The 44-year-old has been linked to the job for weeks, as sources told ESPN FC in March that owner Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani decided upon Tuchel as Emery’s replacement because he can speak French fluently and has always preferred an attacking style of play.

Emery led PSG to the Ligue 1 title and both French cups this season, but the domestic clean sweep was not enough to renew his expiring contract after consecutive Champions League round-of-16 exits at the hands of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Tuchel, who replaced Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp at both Mainz in 2009 and Dortmund in 2015, said he was delighted to have been handed the task of continuing PSG’s domination of French football and succeeding where Emery failed in Europe.

“It is with much joy, pride and ambition that I am joining this big club, PSG,” Tuchel said. “I cannot wait to start working with all these great players who are all amongst the best in the world.

“With my coaching staff, we will do everything we can to help the team reach success, including on the international scene. PSG has enormous potential and it is by so far the most exciting proposition in football. I am also impatient to get to know Parc des Princes, a famous European stadium and one that boasts an incredible atmosphere.”

Tuchel, who started his coaching career with Augsburg’s reserves before taking over Mainz, turned down an offer to replace Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich this summer. Tuchel’s debut will be the International Champions Cup clash against Bayern in Klagenfurt, Austria, this summer.

He was chosen by PSG over a list of candidates reported to have included Juventus’ Massimiliano Allegri, Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino — a former PSG captain as a player — and Andre Villas-Boas.

The new coach is reported to have met already with PSG superstar Neymar and is expected to make significant changes to the squad before next campaign, as well as potentially move the team’s tactics away from the possession-based 4-3-3 that has become familiar in Paris.

Former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel will replace Unai Emery as Paris Saint-Germain’s coach next season.

His major task will be to manage a dressing room full of high-profile personalities while working within a well-defined club hierarchy, but captain Thiago Silva said on Sunday that he thinks Tuchel is up to the task.

“He is a coach a little from our school,” Silva said at the Ligue 1 awards in Paris. “He is German but with a Brazilian way of thinking about the game. That will help us plenty.

“He likes plenty of order? In the world of football, a bit of order is necessary. If he arrives with the mentality that many have spoken about, he will add a lot.”

PSG Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi hailed Tuchel’s arrival and firmly stated his belief that the German will prove to be a shrewd appointment.

“I am very happy to welcome Thomas as the new coach of PSG,” the Qatari supremo said. “Thomas is one of the best and most competitive European coaches to have emerged over the last few seasons. He abides by very strong principles of playing spectacular and clinical football that has always been the foundation of German football, especially on the international scene.

“His competitive spirit, his preference for attacking football and his strong character are in line with what we have always wanted for PSG — this style that our loyal supporters have always demanded and admired.”

Emery succeeded Laurent Blanc at PSG in June 2016 after spending parts of four seasons coaching Sevilla, but the Champions League failures convinced the club hierarchy that he was not worthy of an extension on his two-year contract.

The 46-year-old had been expected for weeks to leave the club following the season, though it was not until late last month that he acknowledged having met with Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique to finalise his departure.

“If the new coach needs something from me, I can offer my opinion,” Emery said at the time. “PSG’s project is very solid, and it will continue to grow and add major players. The next coach, whoever it is, will find a big club, with big opportunities — I am there to offer some help.”

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.

collectionfifatips | Mendy: I’m at full power for Russia

  • Benjamin Mendy hasn’t started a game since knee surgery in September
  • The exciting wingback insists he will be in peak condition for Russia 2018
  • Messrs Digne, Hernandez and Kurzawa provide competition to Mendy

Benjamin Mendy has insisted he will be in in perfect condition – physically and mentally – to represent France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

The 23-year-old left-wingback underwent knee ligament surgery in September, but made his second, short substitute appearance since recovering in Manchester City’s 0-0 draw at home to Huddersfield Town on Sunday.

After saying he “felt something amazing” – a referral to the City fans’ support – he added: “I’ll do like everyone else and try to get as much playing time as possible.

“We’ll see when the [squad] list comes out. Physically and mentally, I’m at full power and I’m ready to go to Russia.”

Mendy has only won four caps for France, but did appear to have made a spot in their side his own. In his absence, Lucas Digne, Lucas Hernandez and Layvin Kurzawa have patrolled the left side of Les Bleus’ defence.

France play Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C at Russia 2018.

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