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Spain drops Fernando Torres for France, Finland World Cup qualifiers

Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Fernando Torres and Spain are tied with France at seven points atop their group.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque left out Fernando Torres on Friday from his squad for two World Cup qualifiers, including the critical match against France.

Del Bosque said Torres's inconsistent form since moving from Liverpool to Chelsea in 2011 has created doubts that he is the right player to lead the attack.

Torres made the squad for all three of Spain's previous World Cup qualifiers but had only played in one, coming on late against France in October before the French equalized for a draw.

"Torres has been a regular until recently, but we don't see him as being at 100 percent and that is why we didn't bring him,'' Del Bosque said. "Especially for strikers, inconsistency worries us, and Fernando's inconsistency, like in other forwards, is what provoked a sense of insecurity in us.''

Spain will likely be led up front by all-time leading scorer David Villa, with Sevilla forward Alvaro Negredo as a back-up. Del Bosque could also opt to use midfielder Cesc Fabregas as a "false nine,'' like he did at last year's European Championship.

"I believe the two center forwards we have called up are enough for us because we have alternatives up front,'' Del Bosque said.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea took the place of injured captain Iker Casillas, but he will probably be third in line to defend Spain's goal behind Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina.

Del Bosque said he had dropped veteran defender Carles Puyol for fitness concerns, the while Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez made the 24-man squad despite nursing a leg injury.

Del Bosque said Xavi may not be fit to play Finland in Gijon on March 22, but hopes the midfielder can play against France in Paris four days later.

Despite the France game looming, Del Bosque is focused on the match against Finland.

"We train with the goal of winning, but in sports anything can happen,'' the former Real Madrid coach said. "We don't underestimate anyone. Every team is tough to beat.''

Spain and France both have seven points at the top of Group I. Georgia has four points, Belarus three, and Finland one.

The winner of the group qualifies directly to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The top eight runners-up from the nine groups advance to a playoff, with the four winners making the final phase.

France earned a 1-1 draw with Spain in October, ending the country's 24-match winning run in qualifiers.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), David de Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Javi Garcia (Manchester City), Francisco "Isco'' Alarcon (Malaga)

Forwards: David Villa (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)

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