- Diego Costa struck to give La Roja their first win at Russia 2018
- The Brazilian-born Spain striker has scored three goals in two games
- His Russia 2018 exploits have silenced his critics from four years ago
By Antia Andre, with Spain
They said he could not score. They said his style of play was not right for the national team. They have said those things and more about Diego Costa over the last four years, since he made his debut for Spain. The Brazilian-born naturalised Spaniard came in for more criticism than most after Spain’s disappointing Brazil 2014 campaign, which saw him go goalless in his two appearances and return home under a cloud that has hung over him ever since, until now.
The reason for the recent change would be Costa’s three-goal return in Spain’s opening two matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, where the No19 scored a brace against Portugal in Spain’s Group B debut and the match-winner to take all three points from IR Iran.
Did you know?
With his three goals, Costa is the first Spain player to score in the first two matches of a world finals since Fernando Torres at Germany 2006.
If anyone was going to breach the solid defensive wall so carefully constructed by the Iranians, it had to be the in-form Costa, even if his goal had more than a touch of good fortune about it, as an attempted clearance bounced from his knee and into the back of the net. “Sometimes you make great contact and don’t score, but on this occasion it hit me and went in,” he told FIFA afterwards, almost with a shrug of the shoulders.
Sometimes confidence is all that sets apart a striker who cannot miss from one who can. And Costa is not lacking in either self-confidence or that of the people around him.
Crucial to his current rich vein of form is the faith he has maintained in his own abilities despite the doubts and criticism levelled at him - that and the backing he has had from his team-mates. Among them is Isco, who was the first to congratulate Costa on his goal against the Iranians and who had nothing but praise for the striker on exiting the dressing room: “I hope he goes on to get a lot more goals. Diego is doing really well. Aside from the goals, he’s working really hard and helping us a lot. We’re a team and we have to stick together.”
The praise is now flowing Costa’s way, with Spain coach Fernando Hierro also taking the opportunity to congratulate him and make it clear once again that he is Spain’s No9 on merit: “His commitment is fantastic. He’s scored three goals in two games but he’s also working hard and running his socks off for the team. I’m delighted with how he’s performing.”
The man himself is happy too, albeit while keeping his focus on the collective effort: “If I keep on scoring it means the team is doing well. I hope things carry on this way, as long as the team does well out of it.”
The front man will have another chance to add to his tally against Morocco and further La Roja’s bid to reach the last 16. The question now is, can he beat David Villa’s Spanish record of five goals at a single World Cup? El Guaje achieved that haul at South Africa 2010. And we all know how that tournament ended.