Spain drops David Villa for final World Cup qualifiers

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September 30, 2017
New York City FC's David Villa (right)

MADRID, Spain (AP):

Veteran striker David Villa was dropped by Spain yesterday for its last World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

Coach Julen Lopetegui recalled the 35-year-old Villa last month after a three-year absence from the national side. But the New York City striker played only the final minutes of a 3-0 win over Italy before he was sidelined by a muscle injury during training. That meant he missed Spain's 8-0 rout of Lichtenstein.

"Villa has been slowed down by the injury and he doesn't have the pace he had before. That's the only reason (he was dropped)," Lopetegui said.

Lopetegui recalled Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi, Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno, and Napoli forward Jose Callejon to his squad.

Spain lead Europe Group G with 22 points after winning seven and drawing one of its eight qualifiers. Italy is next with 19 points. Albania is third with 13, followed by Israel with nine.

Spain host Albania on October 6 and visit Israel three days later.

The group winner qualifies for the tournament in Russia next summer. The second-place finisher must hope to go through a play-off.

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