The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Atletico striker Diego Costa parts ways with native Brazil, clear to join adopted Spain
MADRID - Diego Costa and his native Brazil parted ways on Tuesday, clearing the path after a weeks-long tug-of-war for the Atletico Madrid striker to play for his adopted country, Spain.
The Spanish federation said on its website that Diego Costa had written to the secretary general of the Brazilian football federation, Julio Cesar Avelleda, indicating his "desire to be at the disposal of (Spanish) national coach Vicente del Bosque."
The swift response from Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was to renounce his plans to call up Diego Costa on Thursday for upcoming friendlies.
"A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the jersey of the Brazilian national team and to play a World Cup in his own country is obviously automatically dropped from the squad," Scolari said in a statement on the Brazilian federation's website. "He is giving his back to what is the dream of millions, to represent the five-time world champions in a World Cup in Brazil."
Diego Costa was born in Brazil but holds a Spanish passport, having moved to Spain in 2007. He had already expressed his willingness to play for the European country, which, he said, had "given him everything."
In March, Scolari picked Diego Costa for friendlies. But he spent only a few minutes on the field when Brazil faced Russia and Italy. Diego Costa is still eligible to play for Spain because the friendlies are not considered official matches.
The Spanish federation said that Del Bosque can now select Diego Costa for a friendly in South Africa on Nov. 19, if "he sees fit." Del Bosque has said several times that he has spoken to Diego Costa about joining the team.
Spain will defend its world title in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
The 25-year-old Diego Costa is having an outstanding season for Atletico after the exit of Radamel Falcao this summer. He has led it to a club-record start in the Spanish league with a competition leading 11 goals in 10 rounds.
With David Villa having injury problems and Fernando Torres showing dips in form, Del Bosque appears set to make a major change to a squad whose core he has kept largely intact since Spain won the first of its two consecutive European championships in 2008.
Diego Costa would provide Spain with a formidable physical presence in attack that Del Bosque has shied away from, preferring, with the exception of Torres, to use smaller players like midfielder Cesc Fabregas to optimize Spain's passing attack.
AP sports writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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