- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

LONDON (AP) - World Cup contenders will hope to find out this week if they are better prepared for the tournament than some of the Brazilian stadiums they will be playing in.

The 32 finalists will mark 99 days until the opening match in Brazil by playing an exhibition game Wednesday, the last chance for many coaches to test players before selecting their World Cup rosters.

Eighteen of the qualified nations will play against each other, including a matchup between defending champion Spain taking Italy. The United States, missing its Major League Soccer-based players, meets Ukraine in a game moved to Larnaca, Cyprus, because of violence in Ukraine.

Here after five things to know about Wednesday’s matches:



This is more than just an exhibition for Diego Costa. It’s a chance for the Brazilian-forward striker to make his long-awaited debut for Spain.

The naturalized Spanish citizen brings a more physical, tenacious forward to the squad, with coach Vicente del Bosque dropping Fernando Torres and David Villa, key players from successful World Cup and European Championship campaigns.

Diego Costa has 21 goals for Atletico Madrid this season - second in Spain to Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

“He’s done enough to merit being here,” Spanish defender Sergio Ramos said. “He can bring a lot of positive qualities.”

Diego Costa will collect make his first appearance on familiar territory: Atletico’s Vicente Calderon Stadium.



The focus is on the strike force for Italy, too.

Mario Balotelli and Giuseppi Rossi are injured, and Daniele De Rossi was dropped because he is serving a Serie A suspension with Roma. So Torino forward Ciro Immobile has been called for up the first time after scoring 13 goals this season.

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