- Manuel Da Costa has a Portuguese father
- The defender represented Portugal at youth level
- Morocco hoping for repeat of Mexico 1986 victory over Portuguese
It is often said that one's country is akin to one's mother, and this is certainly the case for Manuel da Costa. The 32-year-old opted to play for Morocco, the country of his mother’s birth, after earlier representing the youth teams of his father's homeland, Portugal. Now, as fate would have it, the international defender will face Portugal at his first FIFA World Cup™.
Despite his Portuguese roots, Da Costa told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview that he is proud to represent Morocco at Russia 2018. He also revealed that sentiments in his family would be mixed when the two teams square off at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday - but only for one day.
"Participating in a World Cup is something huge for me, as I’m representing my country and my roots," said the French-born player. "It's a big honour to wear the Moroccan shirt because, when you participate in this tournament, you are showcasing your country and culture to the world."
Da Costa, who lined up for the Atlas Lions for the first time in 2014, added: "I was first approached about playing for Morocco by [assistant coach] Mustapha Hadji. After a long discussion with him and the then coach Badou Ezzaki, I was convinced of Morocco's plan and objectives, and since then have had the honour of representing the country."
Yesterday's team-mates, today's opponents
Naturally, Manuel da Costa knows a lot about the way Portugal play, especially since some of the current squad were once his team-mates.
"I played with most of the players when I was young – it would take too long to name them all! However, I remember playing alongside Ricardo Quaresma, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe and learned a great deal from them."
The Istanbul Basaksehir player also knows just how strong Portugal are.
"They’re one of the best in the world, but we won’t focus only on Ronaldo." he said. "We know he’s excellent and surrounded by good players. What’s more important for us, however, is to be focused, precise and have complete solidarity."
While unity and solidarity will be the Atlas Lions’ watchwords on Wednesday when they attempt to overcome Portugal, feelings will be mixed that day in the Da Costa household.
"I expect half of my family will support Portugal and the other half Morocco – which will be kind of funny really," he concluded.