Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

Chelsea's Alvaro Morata. (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

MADRID: Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad, announced on Monday.
Morata paid the price for a disappointing debut season in the Premier League as Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno up front, along with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
“The decision is always difficult because of the talent of the players we have,” Lopetegui said.
“We have opted for three other players who had different assets and including four players up front was not something we wanted to do.”
Two more Chelsea players also missed out as Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas were not included in the 23-man group.
Morata’s absence was the stand-out decision, however, even if it was not an entirely surprising one given the 25-year-old’s dramatic dip in form.
After scoring seven goals in his first seven games for Chelsea, a back injury seemed to affect his confidence. Morata has scored only three times in 22 games since the turn of the year.
“I’ve talked to the players I had to talk to,” Lopetegui said. “I’m not going to name anybody, but there are players who had to find out from me that they were not going to be on the list.”
In contrast, Aspas and Moreno have been in excellent form for Celta Vigo and Valencia respectively, with Aspas the top Spanish scorer in La Liga on 22 goals.
Costa is expected to start when Spain open up against Portugal in Group B on June 15 but Aspas, with his speed and direct running, remains an attractive option.
Alonso only made his debut in a friendly against Argentina in March and lost out to Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal. Fabregas fell behind Spain’s impressive wealth of options in midfield, which will include Sergio Busquets, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.
Manchester United’s David de Gea was included as expected, along with fellow goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta did make it in, as did Monreal. Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Jordi Alba complete Spain’s group of defenders.
“I’ve had several doubts, making a list of 23 is very difficult,” Lopetegui said. “But we have decided this was the most balanced decision and the one we think will help us most at the World Cup.”


LIVE: Egypt 1-3 Russia. Mohamed Salah pulls one back after hosts go three clear.

Updated 6 sec ago
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LIVE: Egypt 1-3 Russia. Mohamed Salah pulls one back after hosts go three clear.

ANOTHER SALAH STAT

 

10.32PM: ANOTHER PENALTY FOR EGYPT? Kutepov looks like he's wrestled Mohsen to the ground but the referee waves play on. It is not referred by the VAR committee and time is running out for Egypt. 

SHARPSHOOTER: Salah celebrates after slotting home his penalty. 

10.29PM — GOAL FOR EGYPT 3-1 to RUSSIA: Salah may not have been at his best so far but he makes no mistake from teh spot smashing the ball emphatically into the back of the net. Can that act as a springboard for an unlikley comeback?

10. 28PM — PENALTY FOR EGYPT: Salah is brought down on the edge of the area. The referee initially calls for a free-kick but that is changed to a penalty after a VAR review. Can he score to inject hope into Egypt players and fans?

FORLORN FANS: Egypt fans trying to enjoy what is unfldoing in front of them in Saint Petersburg. 

 

10.17PM - GOAL FOR RUSSIA 3-0: A disastrous two minutes for Salah and Co. Dzyuba finds room on the edge of the area before hitting a great curled shot to give El Shenawy no chance. This is gae over for Egypt and they are on the verge of going out of the tournament. 

10.15PM - GOAL FOR RUSSIA 2-0: What a tournament this man is having, Cheryshev scores his third goal of the World Cup after great work by Fernandes, a former Brazil international, down the right , a well worked goal. And now Egypt's hopes of making the knockout stages are well and truly on the brink. 

HAPPY HOSTS: The Russians celebrate their fortunate opener. 

10.05PM — SALAH SHOT: The Egyptian star finds room on the edge of the area, enough room to shoot with his trusty left boot. It's well blocked and goes for a corner.

10PM — GOAL FOR RUSSIA 1-0:  A nightmare start to the second-half for Egypt. Golovin crossed the ball in but for some reason rather than catch it El Shenawy punched the ball straight into the path of  Zobnin. A terrible shot hits Fathy who can only watch as  the ball squirmed past his past his own keeper from about 12 yards out. Bad luck but partly of Egypt's own making. They have it all to do now. 

FRIENDLY FANS: This is a great photo of Mexican and Colombian supporters lefting an Egypt fan so he can watch his heroes. 

 

 

HALF-TIME: It has been a close first 45 minutes in Saint Petersburg, neither side really showing much quality. Both coaches will be happy with the scoreline, the key thing for Egypt was to keep it tight and not go behind. The task for the second-half is to build on that, but with Salah only showing glimpses of his class it will be difficult. It is clear the Liverpool man is protect his injured shoulder and not making the dashing runs past defenders that we all got used to over the past 10 months. 

9.42PM — STAT ATTACK: It's been a tight first-half so far as these stats show.

 

9.37PM — SALAH SHOT: It has taken time but Salah gets his first shot in. On the edge of the penalty area he fakes to go on to his right before improvising and hitting shot with his left that only narrowly goes wide. Promising signs for Egypt here. 

9.35PM: Elneney illustrates that the Pharaohs are far from a one-man team as he floats a wonderful pass into the dangerzone. Mohsen again gets a head to it, but you cannot help buyt feel the big man has to do better as the ball drops easily into Akinfeev's hands. 

9.33PM: A good period for Egypt, they force the first corner, which they then subsequently wasted by not beating the first defender (criminal!). But a minute later they work a good opportunity for Mohsen at the far post, only good Russian defending prevented the striker from getting a better header in. 

9.30PM — ONE TO WATCH: Golovin is once agains having a good game in the Russia midfield. Elneny and Co need to quieten him down if they are to prevent the hosts creating good chance after good chance. 

9.24PM: Egypt will be happy with the first 25 minutes, having weathered the early Russian onslaught they have come back into the match and, as with the Uruguay match, showing composure on the ball. Can they go up a level from here? 

9.20PM: It's been a bit of a bitty start from both sides as this photo shows...

 

9.14PM: CLOSE! 'Trezeguet' comes so close with a curling effort from the edge of the box... Egypt finding their feet in this game ...

9.12PM: Mohamed Salah still yet to come into the game, but Egypt looking much brighter than in the first minutes...

9.05PM: Russia commanding the early stages and looking likely to score...our man Salah yet to make a considerable impact...

8.55PM: The anthems have been sung - a rousing rendition from the Russians - and we're ready to get this game under way...

8.50PM: And here he is — Salah is out warming up and looking ok, well at least from our vantage point he is...

 

8.40PM: At the risk of stating the obvious, all eyes will be on Salah tonight. In Saint Petersburg, the city of Russian royalty, can he live up to the mantle of Egyptian King? There's little doubting Cuper's side need him to be at or near his best, can his shoulder take the strain, both literally and metaphorically? 

For Russia the lineup is as expected, Cheryshev starts having come of the bench against Saudi Arabia and scored a brilliant brace. 

 

8.30PM: Both lineups are out here they are...

RUSSIA Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov,  Zobnin, Gazinsky, Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev, Dzyuba. Subs:  Lunev, Semenov, Kuzyaev, Dzagoev, Smolov, Kudryashov, Granat,  Aleksey Miranchuk, Anton Miranchuk, Erokhin, Smolnikov, Gabulov.

EGYPT El Shenawy, Fathi, Gabr, Hegazi, Abdel-Shafy, Hamed,  Elneny, Salah, Said, Trezeguet, Mohsen. Subs: El Hadary,  Elmohamady, Gaber, Morsy, Kahraba, Ashraf, Sobhi, Hamdy,  Shikabala, Samir, Warda, Ekramy. 

 

8.20PM: There is little doubt the return of Salah will give the Pharaohs a big boost, just a quick glance at his stats during his record-breaking season at Liverpool will tell you why.. 

 

 

8PM — BIG NEWS: Egypt go into the crunch clash against Russia knowing defeat will all but end their hopes of making it to the second round, but also buoyed by the return of their talisman, Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian ace has been named, as expected, in Hector Cuper’s starting XI to face the hosts in Saint Petersburg having missed the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Friday.
It may be expecting too much to expect the 26-year-old to provide the spark so missing from Egypt’s loss to the South Americans — there is still some confusion over just how well his shoulder has recovered since injuring it in the Champions League final — but there is little doubt that for all the side’s calm and poise in possession they lacked a cutting edge and Cuper is doubtless hoping Salah can provide it this evening.
The hosts come into the match relaxed and, thanks to the Salah show, not the center of attention. Their 5-0 opening-day win over Saudi Arabia has both removed doubts about the side’s ability and set them up well for a stab at making the knockout stages.
Can Salah upset their home party? The next few hours will tell.