Jun 8, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
In the title-deciding match between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, Diego Costa hobbled off with injury before than fifteen minutes had passed. To ensure his fitness for the Champions League final, Costa was sent off to Serbia to be treated with horse placenta. The forward then failed to make it even ten minutes against Real, with Atléti eventually succumbing to a 4-1 defeat in the final.
It’s little wonder, then, that few thought Costa would be included in Spain’s 23-man roster, much less play an important role at the World Cup. However, after Spain’s warm-up match against El Salvador, many of the concerns over Costa have been alleviated.
On Saturday, the striker played 74 minutes, showing little evidence of the injury that had plagued him in recent weeks. Before five minutes had passed, Costa put on a burst of speed to get inside the penalty area, where he was fouled by Derby Carrillo. Spain fans held their breath, but Costa emerged unharmed.
Cesc Fàbregas, however, did not fare as well. The Barcelona man put his penalty well high over the bar. It was Costa’s former teammate, David Villa, who secured the win for la roja, scoring in both the 61st and 87th minute.
“It was good to get rid of the fear I had,” Costa said through an interpreter. “I am not 100 percent, but about the injury, it is clear that I am very well, that I am better. So this week I must work hard.”
Fans will hope Costa’s hamstring holds up. David Villa may Spain’s all-time goalscorer, but he’s also 32 years old. Fernando Torres often does well for Spain, but after recent seasons at club level, there’s not a lot of trust there. In absence of Costa, Spain may once again need to rely upon their midfield (or a false nine) to get the job done.
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