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FIFA World Cup 2018: Crude but Diego Costa complements Spanish artistes

Brazilian-born Diego Costa, who has scored three goals for Spain in the FIFA World Cup 2018, has been one of the few bright sparks in team’s two games.

football Updated: Jun 21, 2018 21:25 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
FIFA World Cup 2018,2018 FIFA World Cup,Diego Costa
Diego Costa’s high-intensity, in-your-face, often ruffian-like style of play is in stark contrast to the brand of football Spain have come to represent over the years(AFP)

While Spain’s start to the World Cup hasn’t gone awry, it has not been awesome either. If the sacking of head coach Julen Lopetegui a couple of days prior to their opener against Portugal wasn’t enough, the team’s frenetic 3-3 start against them did little to calm the nerves.

On Wednesday night, they put in another shaky performance, hobbling to a 1-0 win against Carlos Queiroz’s Iran. The winning goal for the 2010 champions had a lot to do with the brilliance of Andres Iniesta but came from an opportunistic swipe of the leg of Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa after an attempted clearance from the Iran backline.

After Wednesday’s goal, the Brazilian-born Costa took his tournament tally to three, having earlier scored a brace against Portugal.

The former Chelsea forward has been one of the few bright sparks in Spain’s two games. There were doubts over his ability to lead the line for a side boasting of one of the most creative midfield casts in the tournament.

In 2014, Spain and Costa’s failure in Brazil had raised more questions than they answered. It could have had a lot to do with the Spaniards being more used to forwards who could complement their sleek, polished passing game.

It is perhaps why the likes of David Villa and Fernando Torres managed to be mainstays in the national teams despite often indifferent runs at their clubs.

Costa belongs to a different breed of strikers. His high-intensity, in-your-face, often ruffian-like style of play is in stark contrast to the brand of football Spain have come to represent over the years.

Even in 2018, when Spain are without the retired midfield genius Xavi and with the waning influence of old warhorse Andres Iniesta, Costa remains a lumberjack in a team of artists.

It is not the most ideal arrangement for the new Spain boss Fernando Hierro, as his seemingly grudging praise for his first choice No. 9 on Wednesday night showed.

“Diego is really committed with three (goals) in two matches but he can do better,” he said. “He works hard, fights both at the back and front. We ask him to give everything and he is surrounded by people who want him to do everything.”

Hierro took off Costa in the closing stages on Wednesday. But in the absence of any poacher, Spain must keep their faith on Costa for now. His feral nature could be exactly what they need.

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 21:24 IST