Diego Costa, with his goal-scoring prowess, big-money move, dodgy hamstrings and newly chosen nation, has been one of the main stories in World Football recently.
One of the biggest topics surrounding the Chelsea forward was his decision to choose Spain over his native Brazil on the international stage. The decision came before the 2014 World Cup, and fans of his home country made their feelings known during the tournament with vociferous boos when he was on the ball for Spain.
That reaction was an interesting one as you feel that Marcos Senna and Eduardo, two of many other Brazilian-born players who sought the international experience elsewhere, would not, and, in Eduardo’s case, did not face anything similar. Senna’s case is particularly interesting as he was an integral part Spain’s Euro 2008 squad.
It is Costa, though, who, thanks to his ability and increased profile, basically chose where he wanted to play where the other two players were limited by the competition they faced.
He’s continued to put himself in the forefront with a fantastic start at Chelsea with nine clubs in nine games. His latest victim, Arsenal, came right before the international break. That break, and Costa’s current position in the limelight, provides an interesting topic to look at.
Did Diego Costa make the right decision to choose Spain over his native Brazil on the international scene?
Both nations are going through changes at the senior level but, just as he is with Spain now, Costa would be a primary player for his native Brazil. He is one of the most in-form forwards in the world and one whose style makes him a must-have the way the game is progressing.
We’re not really concerned with why the decision was made, though if you’re interested some Costa’s thoughts are put to paper in this article from the BBC, but whether it was the best choice for him internationally. Three things that need to be considered where that’s concerned are how he will fit into the team’s chemistry, their style of play and potential success on the international stage.
The best international team in the last few years, Spain, had such chemistry mainly due to the core of Barcelona players in the squad and the masterful man-management of Vicente Del Bosque. Recent World Cup Winners, Germany, also boasted of off-field practices that enhanced the team’s ability to play together in Brazil.
One needs to look no further than Costa’s current team, Chelsea, to see the potential for team chemistry that can be created in either side.
Costa already has two Spanish international teammates, Francesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta, at Stamford Bridge, and his budding on-field relationship with Fabregas should be especially beneficial for him, Fabregas and Spain. There’s also his knowledge of former Atletico Madrid mates Koke, Juanfran, Raul Garcia and others who may or may not see time for Spain in the near future.
The Brazilian contingent at the club consists of Filipe Luis, Ramires, Oscar and Willian. All those players should be a part of their national setup for years to come, not to mention the likes of Lucas Piazon and Wallace who could break through. Costa will develop relationships with these players and could have formed a core group for Dunga, or whoever is in charge for Brazil.
Judging how the two teams play is a bit easier as Spain, despite proclamations of the death of tiki-taka, still look to dominate possession despite missing the influence of chief architects; Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Brazil is definitely the more direct of the two, and probably more suited to Costa’s game.
A look at their most recent fixtures show the contrasting styles of the two sides.
Spain, surprisingly, lost to Slovakia in what was an extremely lively performance from Costa. A mixture of solid goalkeeping and lack of chemistry with some of his teammates made it another goalless night. That game was, as Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe states, indicative of the troubles arising from introducing Costa into the Spanish setup. The Chelsea man did eventually break his duck against Luxembourg while Spain played a more direct game.
It’s difficult to foresee a player of Costa’s talent failing to adapt to the Spanish style, though, but it does seem Vicente Del Bosque is willing to be more direct to get the best out of his best forward.
In their two friendly games against Argentina and Japan, Brazil’s more direct play was clear.
They have benefited from some poor defending in the higher profile game against Argentina, and you’d feel that Costa would have put away the chances Brazil’s striker on the day, Diego Tardelli, did. The game against an experimental Japan side highlighted the importance of Neymar but that shouldn’t be an issue as Costa played a support role to the prolific Radamel Falcao at Atletico Madrid.
In the case of style it may be a bit of moot point.
What it really comes down to is the category that’s most difficult to judge. Which team will have the better future?
Both sides are going through a transitional period, Brazil infinitely more so, and have plenty of competition within their respective confederations to contend with.
At first look Spain is, rightly, well ahead. The major problem they have is changing their style but there is no shortage of talent ready to replace the old guard. That was on show against Luxembourg but there is still a lot of experience with players like Fabregas, Gerard Pique and David Silva in the mix.
Brazil has Neymar leading the way along with a conveyor belt of young talent but questions will arise over inexperience, midfield creativity and goalkeeping.
Player selection issues aside, Brazil’s overall problem is the need to appease a demanding fan-base and recapture a football identity that provides beautiful, and successful, football.
So did Costa make the right decision?
It’s too early to tell given that Costa’s only played seven games for Spain so far, with only just over half of that number being competitive.
That question may not be fully answered until the 2018 World Cup as it presents the easiest chance for side-by-side comparison. In the meantime one can look at how the sides fare in the 2015 Copa America, Euro 2016 and, if they make it, the 2017 Confederation Cup as well as any possible friendly meetings in between.
We can do nothing but keep an eye on one of the major talents in World Football and the two nations he’s inextricably linked with.