MADRID: Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has included Diego Costa in his final 23-man squad for the World Cup finals despite the Brazil-born forward’s recent injury woes.
The Atletico Madrid striker has been suffering with a series of muscle problems and limped out of last Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid early in the first half.
Spain have one more warm-up game, against El Salvador in Washington DC on June 7, before the tournament in Brazil when Del Bosque can test Costa’s fitness. If he does not recover sufficiently, Spain can replace him in the squad up to 24 hours before their opening Group B match against Netherlands on June 13 as long as they can prove his injury is serious enough to prevent his participation.
As well as Costa, Del Bosque included fellow forwards Fernando Torres of Chelsea, who netted a penalty in Friday’s 2-0 friendly win against Bolivia in Seville, and David Villa, Spain’s record scorer.
There was no place for winger Jesus Navas, who missed the final part of the Premier League season with an ankle injury, or his Manchester City team-mate Alvaro Negredo.
Real Madrid fullback Dani Carvajal was also left out, with Del Bosque preferring the more experienced Juanfran of Real’s city rivals Atletico. Chile and Australia make up Group B and Spain’s first game is against Netherlands on June 13, a repeat of the 2010 final which Spain won 1-0 after extra time.
Meanwhile striker Torres capped an impressive performance with a well-taken penalty as the depleted holders strolled to a 2-0 win over Bolivia.
In the world and European champions’ penultimate warm-up game before they begin the defence of their title in Brazil next month, Torres made the most of his starting place up front and substitute Andres Iniesta was also on target as Spain ruthlessly dominated the defence-minded South Americans in Seville.
Bolivia, who failed to qualify for the World Cup finals, managed to hold out until halftime before Javi Martinez was bundled over in the penalty area and Torres calmly slotted the spot kick past Romel Quinonez in the 51st minute.
It was the 30-year-old Chelsea forward’s 37th goal in 107 appearances for Spain after an indifferent season with his club and he will hope to have done enough to be included in coach Vicente del Bosque’s final squad to be announced on Saturday.
Chances were scarce for both sides at Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, with Cesar Azpilicueta striking a long-range effort against the post in the 30th minute and Torres forcing a sharp save from Quinonez shortly before the break. Iniesta showed his class when he surged forward in the 84th minute and curled a low effort in off a post and Sergio Busquets crashed a long-range drive off the frame of the goal moments later as the home side pressed forward in the final stages.
“It’s always much better to travel (to a major tournament) with good feelings,” Iniesta said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Cuatro.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David De Gea (Manchester United)
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: David Silva (Manchester City), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Pedro (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Villa (Atletico Madrid)