Leeds United man claims assist in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying debut for second national team

Leeds United winger Helder Costa claimed an assist in Angola's Africa Cup of Nations victory over Central African Republic.
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Costa represented Portugal at every level from Under 16 to Under 21 before playing in the Toulon Tournament and featuring for the country's Olympic side in a 2016 friendly against their Mexican counterparts. His senior international debut came two years later in a 3-1 friendly win over Scotland, a game in which Costa scored the opening goal. In all he wore the colours of Portugal 67 times at all age levels, but despite being in a matchday squad for a UEFA Nations League clash with Poland, he did not make a senior competitive appearance.

FIFA eligibility rules say that friendly match appearances do not commit a player to one country and in 2021 the winger made the decision to switch allegiance to Angola, the nation of his birth.

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Angola called him up for their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Gambia and Gabon but he was unable to join up due to Covid-19 quarantine regulations and did not make his second international debut until November last year, scoring in a 2-2 home draw with Egypt in World Cup qualifying. That goal made Costa only the third player in history to score a debut goal for two different nations, after Alfredo Di Stéfano [Argentina and Spain] and José Altafini [Brazil and Italy]. Four days later the Whites man earned a second cap in a 1-1 draw with Libya.

This week brought a third, and an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying debut at home to Central African Republic. Angola fell behind to a disputed Samuel Nlend goal but hit back when Spezia's M'Bala Nzola met Costa's deep corner to head in at the back post and with 14 minutes left on the clock Gelson Dala found a winner.

On Sunday Costa and Angola travel to Madagascar for the second Group E qualifying game.

At club level, Costa will be welcomed back to pre-season training at Thorp Arch by Jesse Marsch if no move has materialised by then. The 28-year-old arrived at Elland Road initially on loan in the summer of 2019 and played a part in the Championship title success - his second in consecutive seasons - but despite making the move permanent in 2020 saw his minutes reduced in the Premier League as Raphinha established himself as Marcelo Bielsa's first choice right winger.

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Last season Costa was sent out on loan to La Liga side Valencia and after heavy involvement in the first half of the season, started just four league games from January onwards and was left on the bench for the Copa Del Rey final defeat by Real Betis. It was evident long before the season's conclusion that Los Che would not be seeking to make him a permanent signing, leaving his agent - Jorge Mendes' Gestifute - to find him a fresh loan or a final exit from Elland Road. Two years remain on his contract with Leeds and Marsch is understood to be open to the idea of Costa taking part in pre-season, along with Ian Poveda and Leif Davis who also spent last season out on loan, depending on what happens between now and July.