Diego Costa has been one of the most highly rated strikers in world football for the past 18 months, topping the scoring charts at Chelsea despite claims of injury from boss Jose Mourinho. With 9 goals in his first 7 games in England, Costa’s reputation has already begun to change from a one-season wonder at Atletico to one of Europe’s deadliest finishers. However, supporters of his national football team are yet to be convinced.
Costa endured plenty of criticism for switching allegiance from Brazil to Spain months before the World Cup began, though thoroughly merited his inclusion in the final 23-man squad. However, due to a combination of injury problems (some of which continue to plague him) and unrest within the camp culminated in the World Champions’ early demise, Costa failed to impress in Brazil, and unfairly bore plenty of the blame.
Critics suggested his playing style was the main fault, as the usually patient midfield bombarded Costa with long balls to chase. In the wake of the fallout however, that Spain squad was always going to fail, having approached the tournament in bad mental and physical shape.
In the subsequent Euro 2016 qualifiers, there is no question that Costa will spearhead the new generation with Fernando Torres and David Villa seemingly unable to curve the downward spirals of their careers. He may be unpopular, but the Spanish public are looking to Costa to replicate the feats of those two legendary strikers.
Despite his start to the season however, there remains pressure on Costa to replicate his form, having yet to score for his new country. Injuries remain an issue, but if Vicente del Bosque is keen on Costa and takes the qualifier with Slovakia seriously, the Chelsea man should play some part. If not, it will only increase the pressure on Costa’s shoulders having yet to impress an expectant Spanish public. Furthermore, leaving him as an emergency substitute could add to the expectancy if Spain are held by the stubborn Slovaks.
In his place would likely be one of the Valencia duo; Paco Alcacer or Rodrigo Moreno, playing as the central striker. Alcacer scored on his full debut against Macedonia last time out, but his inexperience could easily feature if Spain are held for an hour. Rodrigo has yet to appear for the full squad, having played his way through various youth teams during his career.
Minnows Luxembourg await, irrespective of the result against Slovakia; a game which presents the perfect opportunity for Costa to get some goals and appease La Roja supporters. Of course, the fans expect a glut of goals, though just one from Costa would go a long way in improving his mood in a Spain shirt, and boost his image in the eyes of everyone.
Costa gives Chelsea a potency up front they didn’t see last season, and a player that typifies the modern, rounded striker so vital to teams in this age. Spain’s tiki-taka days are far from over, but remain some way off for the moment, yet they need to get with the times and utilise a player like Costa while they have him. The fans need to give him a bit of love, and the reigning European Champions the support they have earned over the past 8 years, but Costa must first break that scoring barrier and push on from there against either Slovakia or Luxembourg.
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