Spain announced their bid for a second World Cup in spectacular style on Wednesday, thrashing Costa Rica 7-0 in a brutal game that will serve as a warning to their rivals.
Having avoided the fate of both giants Argentina and Group E rivals Germany, who had previously lost 2-1 to Japan, Luis Enrique’s imaginary team blazed at Doha’s Al-Tumama Stadium, dominating possession and using their chances ruthlessly.
Ferran Torres scored twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata also scored against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in a tight game.
Despite Spain’s biggest World Cup victory, Luis Enrique said his team could still improve.
“Our goal is to constantly dominate the game, and for that you need to have the ball,” Luis Enrique told TVE.
“Your opponent gets tired and can’t get into the game, our pressing was exceptional and the 16 players we used were excellent, although we still have room to grow.”
The 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for extravagance in the past, but all three strikers selected by Luis Enrique scored first-half goals to justify his confidence in them.
The coach placed Asensio in a false nine, surrounded by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.
The manager decided to use Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, along with teammate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating that his team would monopolize the ball.
“The Spaniards were much better than us, it’s obvious they had the ball throughout the match,” said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
“They played in the last third most of the game, and we did exactly the opposite. We didn’t attack, we didn’t hold the ball, and when we had it, we didn’t defend it.
“Spain played an amazing game. We didn’t.”
– No mercy –
It took La Roja just 11 minutes to open the scoring as Gavi filed for Olmo and the RB Leipzig winger turned with one superb touch and softly blasted the ball past Keylor Navas with another.
Olmo’s kick was Spain’s 100th World Cup goal, and La Roja became the sixth team to reach the milestone.
Costa Rica, which came as a surprise at the 2014 World Cup by beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top its group, was once again quickly blown apart.
Real Madrid striker Asensio rammed a low, accurate cross from Jordi Alba past his former teammate Navas, who could have done more to stop it.
Torres fired from the spot after Oscar Duarte fouled Alba, a soft decision on a tough night for Los Ticos, who never played the game and failed to get a shot on goal.
Barcelona striker Torres took advantage of a weak defense to score a fourth wide of Navas early in the second half.
Luis Enrique was able to beat the fiery Pedri and Torres before the hour was up and made his debut for young Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde.
The 19-year-old streaked across the pitch ahead of Spain’s fifth goal, substituting Morata, putting Gavi on an aplomb pass.
Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest World Cup scorer at 18 years and 110 days behind Mexican Manuel Rosas and record holder Pelé.
Soler and Morata then stepped in with stoppage-time strikes to further deepen Costa Rica’s suffering and help Spain flex their muscles for a perfect opening match in Qatar.