Was he worth it? Time for Diego Costa to step up for Spain

The Brazilian-born striker struggled in La Roja's 5-1 defeat by Netherlands and could also have been sent off. Now he needs to prove his value to Vicente del Bosque's side
By Ben Hayward in Belo Horizonte

So far, not so good. Diego Costa's controversial switch from Brazil to Spain was supposed to give La Roja an added dimension and boost the team's hopes of retaining the World Cup. Three games into his international career under Vicente del Bosque, however, and it has not yet worked out.

The Brazil-born striker is yet to score in international football, having appeared briefly in two friendlies for the Selecao and now in three games for his adopted country.

Costa cleverly left out a leg to win the penalty which saw Spain take the lead against Netherlands in Salvador on Friday. For the most part, though, he and his team-mates appeared on a different wavelength and his miserable evening ended as he was hauled off with 28 minutes remaining.

It could have been worse. Del Bosque replaced the striker after he had headbutted Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi and been extremely fortunate to avoid a straight red card.

A dismissal would have meant the 25-year-old being unable to play a part in Wednesday's crucial clash with Chile in Group B, in which Spain are playing for their future in the competition, but, as it is, Costa has a second chance. He must take it.

Del Bosque - with the help of the Spanish FA - went to great lengths to ensure that Costa switched his allegiance from Brazil to La Roja late last year and the 63-year-old is likely to keep faith in the Chelsea-bound striker on Wednesday. However, the Spain boss needs to find a way to make it work and Pedro looks set to come in for David Silva against Chile to enable a more direct approach in attack, which should benefit the Atleti co Madrid forward.

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But Costa needs to adapt to his team-mates, too. Two intelligent runs into the area were thwarted by the Dutch defence on Friday, while a third brought the penalty. Overall, though, the Atletico man was either too deep or left isolated in what was a dismal display in the north-east of Brazil, not far from where the striker grew up before moving to Europe as a 17-year-old.

Constantly booed by the Brazilian fans, Costa could face the daunting prospect of a second-round meeting with the hosts in Belo Horizonte later in June but Spain have to get there first.

"I don't think he was affected by the jeers," Del Bosque told reporters after the 5-1 loss on Friday, in which his side had been level at the interval. "Spain are behind him. In the first half we created chances through [Andres] Iniesta, Silva and Costa but, in the second half, everything changed."

It did - and dramatically so. Now, it must change again.

"It's a dream to be representing Spain in a World Cup in Brazil," Costa claimed a few days before the start of the competition. Unless he steps up quickly, however, it could soon turn into a nightmare.

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