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Soccer-Spanish forwards face tough task to make World Cup

Reuters

By Iain Rogers

MADRID, March 4 (Reuters) - Fernando Llorente and fellow centre forwards like Fernando Torres and David Villa will find it tough to make Spain's World Cup squad due to the intense competition for places, coach Vicente del Bosque said on Tuesday.

Llorente has been on good form for Juventus in recent months but like Torres and Villa was overlooked for the world and European champions' friendly against Italy in Madrid on Wednesday, their last match before Del Bosque has to name a preliminary 30-man squad for the finals in Brazil.

Del Bosque picked Brazil-born Diego Costa and Alvaro Negredo as the only two recognised centre forwards and also has a number of midfielders who can play a central attacking role including Cesc Fabregas and David Silva.

"Llorente is a player who we have a high opinion of and his behaviour towards us has always been excellent," Del Bosque told a news conference previewing Wednesday's game, less than two years after the Euro 2012 final Spain won 4-0 against the Azzurri.

"He has been playing very well for Juventus but it's not easy as there is a lot of competition," he added.

"There are a lot of forwards (Roberto) Soldado, Llorente, Villa, Fernando Torres, players who have been a fixture in the national team but we cannot take everyone."

Del Bosque said at the weekend he would be ruthless in picking his final 23-man World Cup squad and wouldn't be swayed by affection for players who have contributed to the nation's recent successes.

Torres played a key role in Spain's triumphs at the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup but his performances for Chelsea have generally been disappointing.

Villa, Spain's record marksman, has failed to get back to his best since breaking his leg in late 2011 and has been playing a secondary role at Atletico behind Costa this term.

Costa and Manchester City's Negredo, by contrast, have been scoring freely and it will be hard for Del Bosque to leave them out unless they suffer a dramatic loss of form.

Chasing an unprecedented fourth consecutive major tournament triumph, Spain play their opening Group B match against the Netherlands, whom they beat in the 2010 World Cup final, in Salvador on June 13.

They then meet Chile in Rio de Janeiro on June 18 and Australia in Curitiba five days later. (Editing by Julien Pretot)

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