Fernando Torres, Rio Ferdinand and the dropped international stars who must win back their squad places before Euro 2012

The Spain and Netherlands internationals are among a number of household names attempting to make their way back into the good graces of their coaches ahead of Poland and Ukraine
With less than four months to go before kickoff at Euro 2012, international coaches are starting to fine tune their team selections ahead of the tournament and one of the most high-profile absentees from the latest player selections for friendlies across the continent was that of Spain striker Fernando Torres.

The Chelsea striker's malaise has been well documented, but the former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool star is not the only one aiming to prove himself between now and May, when the final squads are announced. Goal.com examines a handful of big-name stars looking to win their places back in the national team before it's too late.


Position Striker
Club Manchester City
2011-12 Club Stats 23 apps/13 goals
Caps/Goals 7/1
Last International Nov 15, 2011 vs Uruguay
While Balotelli has improved the consistency of his performances and goalscoring rate for Manchester City this term, Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli remains worried about the player's temperament.

Prandelli labeled the 21-year-old striker as "agitated" after leaving him out of the squad list for their friendly against USA on Wednesday, stressing that he can't risk his team being reduced to 10 men at Euro 2012. Balotelli caused concern for Prandelli after recently serving a four-match suspension for stamping on Tottenham's Scott Parker.

However, should Balotelli tone down his antics, the former Fiorentina boss will likely welcome him back into the fold. The most recent omission is most probably designed just to teach the 21-year-old a lesson.


Position Striker
Club Udinese
2011-12 Club Stats 28 apps/22 goals
Caps/Goals 36/10
Last International Nov 20, 2002 v Turkey
Domestically, Di Natale has been simply unstoppable. With back-to-back capocannoniere crowns already under his belt, he is on course to bag a record-equalling third successive top-scorers' title. His 75 goals in 94 league games since the beginning of the 2009-10 season make him one of the hottest Italian marksmen on record.

When wearing the azzurro of the national team, though, it is a different story. The 34-year-old Neapolitan has scored only five times in competitive internationals, and four of those came against Ukraine and Cyprus in qualifiers.

The other he scored against Slovakia at the end of Italy's shambolic 2010 World Cup campaign, and he hasn't been handed a shirt since. Prandelli threw him some hope before Christmas when he said Di Natale might be worthy of a look-in should he still be scoring later in the season, but there was still no call for the USA friendly thanks in part to a recent knock which saw him sidelined for two weeks.

All he now needs is to continue his current vein of form, then it's all down to the wim of the coach. 'Toto' can do no more than he's already doing.

ELJERO ELIA | Netherlands

Position Winger
Club Juventus
2011-12 Club Stats 3 apps/0 goals
Caps/Goals 26/2
Last International Oct 11, 2011 vs Sweden
A move to Serie A giants Juventus during the summer transfer window seemed to be a step in the right direction for Elia, but the left-sided winger has barely managed to step foot on the field in Turin and has lost his spot in the Netherlands squad as a consequence.

Often used as an impact substitute by national team boss Bert van Marwijk in the past, the former Hamburg star probably only requires playing time in order to get himself back into contention, but having made a number of appearances you can count with one hand for his new club in 2011-12, there's only a slim chance that Elia will be representing his country come their Group B opener against Denmark.


Position Centre-back
Club Manchester United
2011-12 Club Stats 25 apps/0 goals
Caps/Goals 81/3
Last International June 4 2011 vs Switzerland
Veteran defender Ferdinand has not featured for the Three Lions for nearly nine months and many feel the end of his international career is looming, if it has not arrived already.

The 33-year-old center back has seemingly fallen out of favor and form, resulting in his omission from England interim manager Stuart Pearce's list of players to take on the Netherlands. From criticizing the FA for taking their time to deal with the alleged racism row involving John Terry and his brother Anton to his inconsistent displays on the field for Manchester United, he must prove he is still worthy of an England place despite being one of the 'old guard'.

Another of the veterans left out was Chelsea's Frank Lampard, but the midfielder has often come up with crucial goals this season and is more likely to retain his place before the tournament begins as Pearce experiments with other midfield options. On the other hand, Ferdinand has hardly been praiseworthy and with Gary Cahill and Phil Jones available, he may not get another look in.

In Rio's favor, though, is his experience, but that must be supported by the quality of his performances if he is to be in the new England manager's plans come time to submit the final 23-man squad in May.


Position Midfielder
Club Lyon
2011-12 Club Stats 16 apps/1 goal
Caps/Goals 28/4
Last International Mar 29, 2011 vs Croatia
Was it simply a case of 'too much, too soon' for Gourcuff? Praised as the answer to France's lack of creativity in a central-attacking midfield role since the retirement of the legendary Zinedine Zidane, the Lyon playmaker has fallen off the radar.

Gourcuff impressed during the early stages of Laurent Blanc's reign after the World Cup winner took over following Les Bleus' debacle in South Africa, but has quickly diminished in influence for both club and country.

The 25-year-old often plays the role of substitute for his club these days, failing to justify his 22 million euro move to Stade Gerland and Blanc has opted to leave the playmaker at home for the last few friendlies. Save a dramatic improvement in form and retaining a starting place, it is difficult to see the former AC Milan man being present at Euro 2012.


Position Winger
Club Werder Bremen
2011-12 Club Stats 11 apps/0 goals
Caps/Goals 16/1
Last International Nov 17, 2010 v Sweden
Just a few years ago, Marko Marin was regarded as the 'German Messi'. The Bosnia-born attacker earned his first senior international cap at age 19, and later in 2008 scored his first goal for country. He returned to Under-21 level, and alongside the likes of Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, he won the 2009 European Championship.

However, Marin's stock has plummeted in recent years. Following the departure of Ozil from Werder Bremen, the dribbling wizard was moved from the wing to a central playmaking role in Thomas Schaaf's club, and his goals and assist tallies have taken a sharp decline.

Following the emergence of Thomas Muller, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze in the Germany set up, Marin has become a forgotten figure, with his last appearance dating back to late 2010. He has had a resurgence of form as of late, however, and in a Monday press conference, Germany coach Joachim Low announced that Marin's unique dribbling qualities are useful to him, and should he maintain his form, the 22-year-old has a chance of making his squad for Euro 2012.

PEDRO | Spain

Position Forward
Club Barcelona
2011-12 Club Stats 31 apps/7 goals
Caps/Goals 15/2
Last International Oct 10, 2011 v Scotland
Pedro played for Barcelona B in Spain's third tier in 2007-08, but stepped up to the first team on a permanent basis with coach Pep Guardiola the following summer and played a starring role as the Catalans claimed six trophies out of six in the next 18 months.

The Tenerife-born forward scored in all of those to set a new record (since equalled by team-mate Lionel Messi) and his football fairytale continued as he was called up for the World Cup, before going on to start in the final as Spain beat Netherlands in extra time.

More success followed in 2010-11, but injuries and a loss of form have restricted the winger over the last year and he has started to drift out of the plans of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who is taking the opportunity to look at some different players ahead of the Euros.

Spaiisn  overloaded with options in midfield and further forward, but Pedro's pace offers them something different and if he can return to form ahead of the summer, he is likely to make the final cut for Poland and Ukraine.


Position Striker
Club Chelsea
2011-12 Club Stats 30 apps/4 goals
Caps/Goals 91/27
Last International Nov 15, 2011 vs Costa Rica
When Fernando Torres bagged the winner in the Euro 2008 final against Germany it certainly wasn't hard to imagine the then 24-year-old as a fixture in the Spain lineup for the next decade. But, four years on, many wonder whether he will ever come close to reaching his dizzy heights from Austria and Switzerland.

Since his big-money move from Liverpool to Chelsea just over a year ago, Torres has been little more than a passenger on the pitch and after a 21-game Chelsea goal-drought has finally been dumped by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who described the action as "difficult but fair". Now 27, Torres will have to overcome his loss of confidence in order to get back into the reckoning with the likes of Fernando Llorente and Roberto Soldado in better shape. However, having been a fixture in the squad for such a long time, a return is certainly possible for 'El Nino' should he find his shooting boots.

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