Spain launched their bid to lift a second World Cup in spectacular style on Wednesday by shredding Costa Rica 7-0 in a brutal display which will serve as a warning to their rivals.
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Avoiding the fate of both giants Argentina and Group E rivals Germany, who lost 2-1 to Japan earlier on, Luis Enrique’s fancied side sparkled at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, dominating possession and taking their chances mercilessly.
Ferran Torres netted twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata were also on the scoresheet for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in an emphatic romp.
Despite earning Spain’s biggest ever World Cup win, Luis Enrique said his team could still improve.
“Our objective is to continuously dominate the play, and for that you have to have the ball,” Luis Enrique told TVE.
“Your opponent gets tired and can’t get into it, our pressing was exceptional and the 16 players we used were superb — although we still have room to improve.”
In the past the 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for profligacy but all three forwards Luis Enrique selected netted in the first half to pay back his trust in them.
The coach placed Asensio at false nine, flanked by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.
The coach opted to deploy Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, alongside club team-mate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating his team would monopolise the ball.
“Spain was much better than us, that’s obvious, they kept possession throughout the match,” said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
“They played in the final third for most of the game and we did the exact opposite. We didn’t attack, we didn’t keep possession and when we had it we didn’t protect it.
“Spain played an amazing game. We didn’t.”
– No mercy –
It took only 11 minutes for La Roja to open the scoring, with Gavi feeding Olmo, with the RB Leipzig winger taking one sublime touch to turn and another to stroke the ball gently past Keylor Navas.
Olmo’s strike was Spain’s 100th World Cup goal, with La Roja becoming the sixth team to hit that milestone.
Costa Rica, who were a surprise package at the 2014 World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, were quickly sliced apart again.
Jordi Alba’s low drilled cross was rammed home by Real Madrid forward Asensio past his former team-mate Navas, who might have done more to keep it out.
Torres stroked home from the penalty spot after Alba was fouled by Oscar Duarte –- a soft call on a hard night for Los Ticos, who were never in the game and failed to muster a shot at goal.
Barcelona forward Torres capitalised on more slack defending to fire the fourth past Navas early in the second half.
Luis Enrique was able to take off the effervescent Pedri and Torres before the hour mark, and handed teenage Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde his debut.
The 19-year-old roared up the pitch in the build-up to Spain’s fifth goal, with substitute Morata crossing for Gavi to drill home with aplomb.
Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest goalscorer at a World Cup at 18 years and 110 days old, after Mexico’s Manuel Rosas and record holder Pele.
Soler and Morata then got in on the act with stoppage-time strikes to pile further misery on Costa Rica and help Spain flex their muscles in a perfect opening match in Qatar.