Football

Robin van Persie shares begrudging respect for Diego Costa

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Holland striker Robin van Persie has admitted that he thinks Spain's decision to draft Diego Costa into a star-studded squad makes them the best team at the World Cup heading into Friday night's Group B opener.

Van Persie will come up against Chelsea's incoming £32m striker tomorrow night, when Spain face the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, a night where Manchester United's main marksman saw his dreams of glory dashed by an extra-time strike from Andres Iniesta.

Spain are heavy favourites to emerge from the clash of European titans with all three points, although Van Persie believes that under the tutelage of new United boss Van Gaal and with a reworked 5-3-2 formation the Dutch are capable of springing a surprise.

On the eve of his third World Cup finals Van Persie is quoted by Sky Sports as sharing: "Spain have a fantastic team, with players like Diego Costa and (goalkeeper) David de Gea, my team-mate at Manchester United, and in my opinion have the best team in the world.

"But we are also very good, so don't forget that and do not underestimate Holland. Although as a squad, we may be much younger than four years ago, there are also lots of opportunities.

"I have faith in our team, if we - and I mean not only the players, but also the staff and the Dutch press - can say that we have had a very nice tournament, then whatever the outcome, for us the World Cup will have been more than successful."

Group B is a particularly tough one to call and there is no margin for error amongst Van Persie, Costa and co, as Chile lurk with a settled squad more than capable of making South American advantage count thanks to the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.

That puts added pressure on Friday's heavyweight clash, which will give Chelsea fans another chance to watch Costa up close and personal, maybe even alongside Blues team-mate for next season Cesc Fabregas in attack.

Costa scored a quite remarkable 36 goals for Atletico Madrid last season and earned both a La Liga winners medal and a big-money move to Chelsea, but has the World Cup firmly on his mind before planning for life at Stamford Bridge.

Van Persie outstrips his new Premier League rival for experience at international level and has the extra responsibility of helping an immensely talented but very young Dutch squad shine this summer.

Holland's commitment to giving youth a chance is one of the exciting ingredients surrounding the first genuine clash of top contenders at the tournament, with the contest between Costa and Van Persie a potential standout personal battle.

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Topics:
World Cup
Chelsea
Football
Manchester United
Premier League

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