Madrid, March 4: All eyes will be on Brazil-born forward Diego Costa when Spain entertain Italy in the Vicente Calderon Stadium on Wednesday night.
Despite never having played for Spain, the Atletico Madrid player is in pole position to lead the Spanish attack in the 2014 World Cup finals, something that was made clear by coach Vicente del Bosque’s decision to select him ahead of rivals such as David Villa or Fernando Llorente for the last friendly match before he names his preliminary squad for the summer, reports Xinhua.
Costa will make his debut in the same ground he plays for his club and can be assured of a rapturous reception from the fans for what is perhaps the most important game of his life.
In reality Costa looks to have his ticket all but assured to return to his homeland this June, the only thing that could put that ticket in jeopardy would be if he gave Del Bosque reason to worry that his temperament could get him into trouble over a month-long tournament.
Speaking on Spanish TV ahead of the game, Costa insisted that despite having played two friendly games for Brazil, he was delighted at the prospect of debuting for the country where he has spent virtually all his professional career.
“I never imagined it. When I discovered Spain were interested I began to imagine thing and it was a privilege that the World Champions were thinking about me and to be able to help the great players they have,” he said.
“Vicente del Bosque has showed what kind of a man he is. He has been very honest, he has not promised me anything and I like to earn what I get, not to have it promised to me,” added Costa.
Wednesday will not just be a big night for Costa, it is important for other members of the squad, such as Bayern Munich duo Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara. Martinez was part of the 2010 World Cup winning squad, while Alcantara’s form in Germany could see him win a place to travel this summer.
Meanwhile Cesar Azpilicueta should get a chance to show his versatility during the night. The former Osasuna defender who is usually a right back, has spent most of this season playing on the left and this versatility could see him nudge out the versatile but limited Alvaro Arbeloa.
Elsewhere Del Bosque is ever mindful of the domestic and European needs of Spain’s big clubs and is likely to be sparing in his use of players such as Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Xavi Hernandez, who on Monday said he was unsure whether he would be able to continue playing for his country until the 2016 European Championships.
Italy, meanwhile, travel to Spain with coach Cesare Prandelli admitting he would rather not have faced the Spanish given that a defeat could spark criticism in Italy at a moment when his side need support. The Italians have not forgotten the four goals they received against Spain in the 2012 European Championship finals.