Spain coach Vicente del Bosque sprang a few surprises when announcing his squad to face Italy in Madrid next Wednesday, but the name of Atlético Madrid striker Diego Costa was not one of them. The Brazil-born striker became eligible for the Spanish national side last year and staked his claim to a place in the team with a series of explosive performances for his club, only to be ruled out of La Roja’s November international friendlies through injury.
In all likelihood Costa will make his Spain debut on his home turf against 2006 World Cup winners Italy. Although blessed with a surfeit of excellent midfielders, Spain’s goal scoring collective has failed to menace many defenses in Europe’s leagues this season. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres remains out of sorts, while Tottenham’s Roberto Soldado remains out of his club team. Fernando Llorente has shown glimpses of form at Juventus and would have relished a return to Spain to face some of his teammates, but the former Athletic striker has failed to sway Del Bosque on this occasion. Costa has represented Brazil but not in an official match, thus making him available for a grateful nation.
“There are more than two important players who are not in the squad,” said the Spain coach. “It is a list exclusively for the game against Italy, there is still time ahead of us.”
Other notable absentees include Juan Mata, whose move to Manchester United coincided with the implosion of the reigning Premier League champions, dulling the luster of the talented playmaker somewhat. There is also no place for Spain’s all-time leading scorer David Villa.
Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara gets the nod for a potential fifth Spain cap while Chelsea’s César Azpilicueta also received a call from a Del Bosque for a fifth time.