The Brazil-born striker struggled in the 5-1 Netherlands defeat and could also have been sent off. Now he needs to prove his value to Vicente del Bosque's sideBELO, HORIZONTE, Brazil -- 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 hasn't worked out.
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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 La Roja. 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 teammates 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 is playing for its future in the competition. But as it is, he has a second chance - and he must take it.
Coach Vicente del Bosque - with the help of the Spanish FA - went to great lengths to ensure Costa switched his allegiance from Brazil to La Roja late last year and the 63-year-old coach 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 forward.
But Costa needs to adapt to his teammates, too. Two intelligent runs into the area were thwarted by the Dutch defense 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 Brazil's northeast, not far from where the striker grew up before moving to Europe at 17.
Constantly booed by the Brazilian fans, Costa could face the daunting prospect of a second-round meeting with the hosts in Belo Horizonte later this month. But Spain has to get there first.
"I don't think he was affected by the jeers," Del Bosque said 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.