World Cup: Costa holds the key

World Cup: Costa holds the key

With such a mouth-watering array of midfielders at his disposal, you might think that Vicente del Bosque would be eagerly anticipating the World Cup.

But he's praying his one big gamble - the selection of the much-heralded striker Diego Costa in the final 23-man squad - will pay off.

After an astonishing season with Atletico Madrid, Costa limped off the field in the Champions League final last month, clutching his hamstring and wondering if he had pushed his body too far at just the wrong time.

Costa was born in Brazil and actually played for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side twice last year before deciding to take up Spanish nationality. Because his two Brazilian caps had been won in international friendlies, Scolari was powerless to stop him.

But his wrath was merciless.

"A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and compete in a World Cup in your country is automatically withdrawn," he said at the time.

"He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent our national team, the five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil." But Costa's dream isn't over yet.

On Monday, he showed no ill-effects when he trained with Spain ahead of their final friendly on Sunday (Singapore time) against El Salvador before travelling to Brazil.

OPTIMISTIC

Costa said: "I didn't think they would let me train from the start but we did some tests and I'm well.

"I think I can be fit for the match against Holland, even for the friendly (in Washington)."

Costa's importance cannot be overstated for the winners of the last three major titles - Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and South Africa World Cup.

Spain remain one of the most creative teams on the planet, but they lack a serious cutting edge to their play.

With Costa, del Bosque would have had aggression, invention and clinical finishing.

He would have had a player who, while perhaps not as technically accomplished as others at the tournament, still brings a spontaneity for which no opponent can legislate.

Without Costa, del Bosque will have to look at other options, like Fernando Torres, who has struggled since moving to Chelsea, or Alvaro Negredo, who hasn't scored since January.

The coach may even want to dispense with a striker altogether, choosing to field an attacking midfielder as a false No. 9 instead.

Cesc Fabregas has certainly filled that role with distinction in the past, most notably during Euro 2012. David Silva might be another candidate for the role.

Whoever del Bosque chooses, Spain will have to hit the ground running.

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