Monday 24 July 2017

David Villa injury woe lifts Irish hopes

Barcelona's David Villa (C) is stretchered off during their semi-final football match against Al Sadd at the Club World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Barcelona's David Villa (C) is stretchered off during their semi-final football match against Al Sadd at the Club World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

Jamie Holland

IRELAND will still be rank outsiders when they take on Spain in Gdansk on June 14, but the world and European champions are facing the prospect of being without their all-time leading scorer after David Villa yesterday broke his leg.

The Barcelona striker could end up watching the entire championships from home after breaking his tibia in his club's 4-0 win over Al Sadd in the Club World Cup semi-finals and the La Liga champions said he will be flown back home for surgery.

The injury means Villa will be unlikely to play again before the last few games of the season -- if at all -- and weakens Spain's chances of defending their European title in June, while also increasing Ireland's hopes of progress from their Euro 2012 group.

Villa was tangling with two defenders in the 37th minute when he landed awkwardly and immediately called for help, before being carried off the pitch on a stretcher.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was devastated by news of the injury to the man who was the team's top scorer with five goals during their 2010 World Cup triumph.

While the 30-year-old is no longer a certain starter for Barcelona, he remains an integral part of the national line-up and would have been guaranteed a place in the side in Poland and Ukraine.

"The news is very bad," Del Bosque said. "It's a great misfortune. There are six months to go. Let's see if he can get well."

The loss of Villa would leave Chelsea misfit Fernando Torres, Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo competing for places up front. Valencia's Roberto Soldado would be Villa's likely replacement in the squad if he doesn't recover in time.

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