DOHA, Qatar – After global heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Japan threw stunning upsets against Argentina and Germany, Spain wasted no time in putting Costa Rica to bed early with a 7-0 win. It was a historically dominant World Cup win and one that puts Spain among the favorites for the remainder of the tournament.
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1. What scoring problems?
At the start of the World Cup, there were legitimate questions about Spain’s attack. Spain, which combines World Cup qualifying and the UEFA Nations League, was 17th in the region by goals (23 in 14 games) and had not scored more than two goals in their last 11 competitive games. Against a Costa Rica side who normally field a five-man defense in front of former Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, a low-scoring game seemed possible, if not likely.
That mindset quickly disappeared. Costa Rica initially defended in a 4-4-2 block which the Spanish attack almost immediately cut through with ease. Dani Olmo’s 11th-minute opener came after a well-crafted sequence that saw him combine with Gavi when the Barcelona midfielder’s deflected chip put him in front of goal, where he turned calmly and finished.
When Marco Ascensio scored from a Jordi Alba assist ten minutes later, the score was already set and Ferran Torres’ penalty gave Spain more goals in 31 minutes than 18 sides in the tournament had scored in full time up to that point . The attack show never slowed down.
2. A historically dominant effort
Spain’s seven goals are the most they have ever scored in a World Cup match, beating the previous record set in the 6-1 win over Bulgaria in 1998. In doing so, Spain almost matched their 2010 World Cup total, scoring eight and winning the entire tournament.
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It was the most lopsided victory at a World Cup since Portugal beat North Korea 7-0 in 2010 and the first time a side has scored seven goals in one game since Germany beat Brazil seven in the 2014 semifinals. (The record winning margin at the World Cup is nine, which has happened three times, most recently in 1982).
Spain became the first team to keep an opponent without a shot at a World Cup since 1990, when Brazil did the same against Costa Rica. And Spain’s 81.3% possession rate was the most dominant rate since at least 1966. All in all, it was one of the most dominant performances of all time at a World Cup.
3. Thanks for coming, Costa Rica
Costa Rica always needed an unlikely performance to escape a group that included two world champions (Spain and Germany) and Japan. After this result, the idea that this could ever be possible seems absurd. The goal should now be to avoid repeating what happened in 2006 when the team lost all three games and finished the tournament in 31st place.
For coach Luis Fernando Sanchez, the decision to play with a four-man back line was bizarre. Mainly knowing that Spain would play with a large majority of possession and struggling at times with bunkered defences. It wouldn’t have made any difference in the end result Los Tico started at five in defence, but Fernandez essentially admitted he made a tactical error when he switched to a 5-4-1 from an early deficit.
Costa Rica’s worst World Cup defeat to date was three goals: in 1990 against Czechoslovakia (4-1), in 2002 against Brazil (5-2) and in 2006 against Ecuador (3-0).
Spain: U Simon 6, C Azpilicueta 7, S Busquets 8, Gavi 9, M Asensio 9, F Torres 8, Rodri 7, J Alba 8, D Olmo 8, A LaPorte 7, Pedri 7
Subtitle: Soler 6, Morata 7, Balde 6, Koke 6, Williams 6
Costa Rica: K Navas 3, K Fuller 4, C Borges 4, O Duarte 4, A Conteras 5, B Oviedo 4, J Bennette, J Campbell, F Calvo 4, C Martinez 5, Y Tejeda 5
Subtitle: Waston 6, Ruiz 6, Zamora 5, Aguilera 5, Matarita 6
Best and worst performers
Given Spain’s dominance, any number of players could be singled out here, but let’s take a moment to acknowledge the importance of Gavi’s performance. He became the third youngest player (18 years, 110 days) to ever score in a World Cup, by a goal-of-the-tournament contender.
The worst: Navas
It was a collective disaster but Navas saved his teammates as he has so often done in international competitions.
Highlights and notable moments
Spain start the 2022 World Cup with a win, something they haven’t managed to do in the last three tournaments since 2010, which they ended up winning.
— ESPN India (@ESPNIndia) November 23, 2022
We will see many Barcelona youngsters Pedri and Gavi in the years to come.
19-year-old Pedri & 18-year-old Gavi are starting together in the World Cup for the first time 🤩
It’s a new era for Spain’s midfield 🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/vVbB4dlcno
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 23, 2022
Spain’s midfield delivers a masterclass against Costa Rica, who are thoroughly overplayed.
This Spanish team and Luis Enrique’s strategy remind me of Unai Emery’s quote from a few weeks ago and that form doesn’t matter. Everyone #ESP The player is only there to help the ball move. Let the ball do the work. This is the shape.
— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) November 23, 2022
After Gavi scored Spain’s fifth with a dream goal, there is no question that Enrique’s side are dangerous in front of goal.
GAVI’S FIRST FIFA WORLD CUP GOAL
He becomes the youngest player ever to score for Spain in a FIFA World Cup 🔥🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/ErWfoxArdn
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 23, 2022
After the game: What the players and coaches said
Spain’s Ferran Torres: “We’re happy. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. It’s true that we already had a big lead at half-time, but goals can be useful in a competition like this, so we set out to do more… It is what.” in every game we try to play how we want to play from the first minute to the 90th minute and to get the game where we want and we achieved that today… Now we think about Germany, Watch videos of them playing and we look forward to playing. I don’t know if we’re contenders (to win the World Cup) but we have an exceptional group, we’re going to make it difficult and we want to do big things.”
Spain head coach Luis Enrique: “It was a very special game for us. We tried to concentrate on getting a good start. We wanted to start the competition as well as possible and things went really well for us. We weren’t good in the first game of the last World Cup. We played against a very competitive side in Costa Rica but today we were superior in every aspect of the game.”
Costa Rica head coach Luis Suarez: “I’m very sad, there’s no doubt about that. Also, I had very different expectations for this game and my feelings before this game were very different. I don’t feel good, to be honest.” “Psychologically, I’m really worried that my team won’t be able to take this terrible result and the way we’re playing. This is the first solution I have to offer my team and we have to put that behind us and start working.” starting tomorrow morning to show our players that we have to remember Japan and try to win this game.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Spain scores their 100th World Cup goal – 6th nation to accomplish the feat.
– Gavi: At 18 years and 110 days, he becomes the youngest player to represent Spain in a major international tournament (EURO + World Cup).
– Gavi is the first teenager to ever score for Spain in a World Cup.
– Spain: 81.3% possession – the highest possession in a FIFA World Cup match since 1966.
– 7 is the most goals scored by Spain in a World Cup match.
Spain: Spain ride high-headed into their game against a shocked Germany. In the last clash between the two powers, Spain beat Germany 6-0 in the UEFA Nations League (November 17, 2020).
Costa Rica: After their worst World Cup performance ever, Costa Rica will face a Japanese team in what is arguably their best win in history. This may not bode well for Los Tico but they shouldn’t be as overwhelmed as they were against Spain.