Costa no criminal, says del Bosque

MADRID • Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has insisted that Diego Costa has "committed no crime" despite admitting that the controversial striker has a penchant for "unsavoury incidents".

Costa's repeated selection has been controversial since del Bosque convinced him to turn his back on his country of birth to play at the 2014 World Cup.

Spain's defence of their world title turned out to be a disaster in Brazil, as they bowed out following a 1-5 thrashing by the Netherlands and a 0-2 loss to Chile.

Costa has done little to justify his place since, scoring just once in 10 appearances in a 4-0 rout of Luxembourg 19 months ago.

He was dropped by del Bosque in March owing to fitness issues, but it was his fiery temperament that has come under even greater scrutiny during a difficult second season at English club Chelsea.

Yet, del Bosque insisted yesterday that, if Costa is left out of the Euro 2016 squad on May 17, it will be owing to his form - and not a fear that he could lose his cool.

"We can justify if he has played well or badly, but he has committed no crime," the coach said. "With us, he has always acted correctly. There have been some unsavoury incidents, but he hasn't committed any crime.

"And he always comes here with plenty of desire. That is what we value and we're not going to doubt him because of his behaviour."

Spain are looking to bounce back from their World Cup disappointment with a hat-trick of European Championships in France in what is likely to be del Bosque's last stand after four major international tournaments in charge.

Belgium's Euro 2016 challenge suffered a big blow on Saturday, when skipper Vincent Kompany was ruled out with injury.

"To me that's very sad news," the Manchester City captain, 30, wrote on his Facebook page. "So I could be standing here, feeling sorry for myself. I could fear for my career, as others may do.

"I could give up. That is not me."

He has been dogged by a series of injuries this season and exited the Champions League semi-final defeat by Real Madrid last Wednesday after just 10 minutes with a groin problem.

Fellow centre-back Thomas Vermaelen is also injury-prone and features little for Barcelona.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Costa no criminal, says del Bosque'. Print Edition | Subscribe