MADRID (AP) — Brazilian-born, naturalized Spanish striker Diego Costa was called up for the first time by Spain to play in a pair of friendlies in Africa.
Coach Vicente del Bosque named Costa in his 23-man squad on Thursday for the World Cup champion’s matches against Guinea and South Africa.
Costa featured in two friendlies for Brazil but could still switch to Spain because he had never featured in a competitive match. The Atletico Madrid striker publicly declared his desire to suit up for the world champions despite the World Cup beckoning in Brazil.
“Seven months before the World Cup, we thought it would be a convenient time to try him out. He’s going to provide a lot of solutions for us in attack,” Del Bosque said on Thursday before warning the tournament in Brazil was still a long way away.
“This doesn’t mean he’s on the (World Cup) squad. There’s still time between now and the World Cup. There’s no unlimited credit for any player on this team.”
Costa is the fifth Brazilian-born player to play for Spain.
The last Spanish-naturalized Brazilian to feature for Spain was midfielder Marcos Senna, who was one of the best players at the 2008 European Championship where Spain won its first major title in 44 years.
“I don’t think this will be a difficult integration. Diego has shown he wants to play for Spain. I don’t think (he’ll) have any problems adapting to our system,” said Del Bosque, who maintained Spain showed no disrespect toward the Brazilian federation and its coach Felipe Scolari in its recruitment of Costa.
“We acted with the usual discretion and respect as we always do in all matters.”
Costa will be familiar with Atletico teammate David Villa, who is also in the squad, alongside in-form Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo.
Xabi Alonso also returns to the fold after being sidelined since the summer by injury. Del Bosque left Gerard Pique off the team with the Barcelona player struggling with a hamstring problem. Xavi Hernandez was also rested.
In all, there were six changes to the team, with Javi Martinez and Santi Cazorla also recalled.
Spain plays at Guinea on Nov. 16 and South Africa three days later.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Ignacio Monreal (Arsenal), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Manchester City), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Forwards: Juan Mata (Chelsea), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)