Torres uncertain for Spain opener

LONDON - Spain striker Fernando Torres could miss his team's World Cup opener against Switzerland after undergoing knee surgery last month, Liverpool's medical department said on Tuesday.

Torres suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during the Europa League match against Benfica last month, ruling him out of Liverpool's run-in, and the club said their priority was to make sure their leading striker was fully fit for next season.

European champions Spain, among the World Cup favourites, face Switzerland in their first match on June 16.

"You can't be absolutely certain of anything but at this stage, if he continues to progress the way he is, he should be fit to play at some stage during the World Cup," Peter Brukner, Liverpool's head of sports medicine and science, told the club's website.

"Whether he'll be fit for the first game or not is uncertain. We're anxious not to hurry him along too much because we want the long-term benefit, but we're aware he's got the short-term goal of playing in the World Cup."

Torres, who has scored 23 goals in 72 internationals, said last month after surgery in Barcelona he was confident of being fit for the start of the tournament in South Africa.

"He's certainly tremendously committed to his rehab, as are the staff here. If anyone can recover from an injury, he can," Brukner said.

"Hopefully, we can get a compromise between those two where he plays in the World Cup and he's fit and well for Liverpool next season."

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who also has concerns over injured midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta, said on Tuesday he was worried about Torres but insisted expectations for the 26-year-old's recovery were good.

"I am sure that when the moment comes all the players will say they are fine but we are the ones who have to evaluate and decide the risk that should be taken," he said at a Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) event in Madrid.

"We cannot go to South Africa with four or five doubtful players," he added. "We have good hearts but we have to listen to our heads."

Del Bosque said he was certain that a decision taken by Xavi to play on in La Liga with a minor calf problem would not prevent the Barcelona midfielder, whose form will be key to Spain's chances, playing at the World Cup.

Replacing Torres would be a tall order, with Fenerbahce's Daniel Guiza a possible option along with Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo.

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