Diego Costa made a relatively low key debut for Spain against Italy yesterday while Brazil romped to a 5-0 win over South Africa. But Brazil’s two centre forwards used, Fred and Jo, did not have a shot on goal between them while Costa is likely to get better.
This week, we look at the Brazilian striker who wants to make his nation cry in its home World Cup and the bizarre figure who hopes to take his place for the Selacao; an un-Cleverly petition by disgruntled England fans and Luis Suarez tries to make up with Ghana fans by asking them to blame Gyan for their 2010 World Cup quarterfinal defeat instead.
Three talking points during the international break
By Michael Cox (Soccernet)
Usually, international friendly breaks are greeted with a sigh of disappointment from across the globe as intense club seasons are disrupted by half-hearted matches, ones that increasingly appear of little interest to footballers.
This week, however, is the most important international friendly break in football. Realistically, it’s the final opportunity for managers to test out options before World Cup squads are named in a couple of months.
With that in mind, here are three particularly interesting storylines this week involving newcomers to the major contenders in Brazil.
Diego Costa makes Spain bow
Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa will make his Spain debut this week, potentially providing La Roja with a solution to their clear weakness: the centre-forward role. Six years after fellow Brazilian Marcos Senna switched nationality and became a crucial part of Luis Aragones’ Euro 2008-winning side, La Liga’s second top goal scorer could have a similar impact.
Costa’s situation is extraordinary considering that he was able to choose between the World Cup hosts and the World Cup holders. His appearance against Italy will come less than a year after he faced Cesare Prandelli’s side in his Brazil debut.
Because he won’t have played a competitive game for either country until the World Cup, technically he could still be selected by Luis Felipe Scolari for this summer’s tournament, although the Brazil coach has indicated, understandably, that he wouldn’t consider Costa after his defection even if he had a late change of heart.
Already Costa feels like the natural option for Vicente del Bosque. The striking heroes from four years ago—David Villa, Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente—haven’t been included for this friendly. Roberto Soldado is badly out of form. Pedro Rodriguez is more of a wide option than a genuine centre-forward.
As such, Costa is challenging Alvaro Negredo for a spot up front, and while Negredo deserves a start having scored in four international matches since August, Costa will be given an opportunity to make an impact.
A powerful, energetic, persistent wind-up merchant of a centre-forward, Costa offers something entirely new to Spain, especially considering they started and ended Euro 2012 with Cesc Fabregas as a false nine, dropping into midfield to ensure possession dominance and more concerned with subtle flicks than battling with centre-backs.
Costa is also more of a natural goal scorer, having hit 47 goals for Atletico since Spain’s Euro 2012 victory.
Despite a poor performance in front of goal in the Madrid derby at the weekend, he is unlikely to flop if handed a start. This could be the beginning of one of the most extraordinary stories in football history—a Brazilian determined to make his home country suffer in their own World Cup.
Click here to read more on the talking points from this week’s international friendlies.
And here are some more interesting stories:
As a Brazilian named ‘Diego’, Costa was arguably born to betray his homeland. Graham Hunter writes on Spain’s new complex addition.
Click here to find out more about Diego Costa.
Brazil could do with a big centre-forward for the 2014 World Cup. But literally? An unlikely candidate named Walter is pushing to be at the front of the queue. Maybe he thinks it is a cafeteria line.
Click here for more on Fluminese’s portly new star, Walter, who emerged as an unlikely contender for a place upfront for Brazil
Meanwhile, England fans are insist that Tom Cleverly is not a clever choice for central midfield and have started a petition to ban him from the 2014 World Cup. Roy Hodgson is standing by his man.
Click here to read about Hodgson’s reaction to England fans’ un-Cleverly petition.
No such problems for Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The national goalkeeping coach insists Casillas is irreplaceable even though he is number two at Real Madrid.
Click here to read about Iker Casillas’ vote of confidence.
Uruguay star Luis Suarez is fed up of being a hate figure for Ghana fans for his handled ball in the 2010 World Cup; and nobly suggested that they blame star Asamoah Gyan for his botched penalty instead.
Click here for Luis Suarez olive branch, which almost poked Asamoah Gyan’s eye out.
Click here for Wired868’s archive of fascinating stories in our build up to the 2014 World Cup.