02/03/2024

Spain Outclassed Costa Rica in a very one-sided game to top their group (Photo: FIFA World Cup/Twitter)

In their most prolific World Cup win, Spain made a strong statement in their opening fixture, putting seven past Keylor Navas to go top of group E.

After Germany’s upset loss against Japan, the Spaniards were able to capitalise with a convincing win over Costa Rica.

Spain used a high counter-pressing and dominant possessional play to school their opponents, which also came along with some midfield brilliance.

Both nations have their fair share of star power, with PSG’s Keylor Navas in goal for Costa Rica as well as Arsenal alumni Joel Campbell leading the line. Spain have many superstars and league winners, but most eyes were on the young up and coming FC Barcelona duo Pedri and Gavi, the latter of which had won the golden ball award last month.

Throughout their time at the Camp Nou, both midfielders have garnered a reputation for being intelligent for their age with technical excellence and positional awareness the key attributes. Given that Pedri and Gavi are only 19 and 18 respectively, football fans around the world were eager to see them on the big stage to get an insight into the future of Spanish Football.

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Spain started the game by pressing aggressively, when in possession the lone centre forward, Marco Asensio would drop slightly deeper to form a diamond with the three midfielders in order to link up play.

The first ten minutes of the game were dominated by the Spaniards as they had many key chances early on, the first of which occurred after five minutes of play after a beautiful lob by Pedri was put wide by Dani Olmo. The 2021 Golden Boy worked his magic yet again with a reverse pass to find Asensio who barely put his shot off target.

After 11 minutes of domination, Spain finally scored their first goal after Gavi’s deflected flick fell to Olmo who made up for his last chance by controlling the ball perfectly before putting the ball in the net.

Costa Rica’s main game plan looked to be heavily reliant on catching Spain on the counter-attack, but Spain showed their class. In the 21st minute, Sergio Busquets exposed Costa Rica’s right flank by beautifully playing the ball out wide to an unmarked Jordi Alba before he crossed it into Asensio to make it 2-0, Alba was later fouled by Costa Rican defender Óscar Duarte in the box and the penalty was converted by Ferran Torres to make it three.

In attack, Spain’s left side operated smoothly as Olmo, Alba and Pedri would all interchange roles, when Alba made his overlapping runs Pedri would often cover for him while Olmo cut inside. The three players would take turns in each role.

Spain’s right side was a little bit more straightforward, although the Spanish right back César Azpilicueta would sometimes attack, he often stayed in position while Gavi operated in the right half-space. The right winger Ferran Torres stayed out wide.

To close the first half Pedri laid off a beautiful through-ball to Asensio but it was blocked.

In the first half of play, Spain had 85% possession as well as 537 passes with a 93% pass accuracy rate.

The second half started off with Spain dominating possession once again, with the right flank becoming more versatile. This was shown through Spain’s fourth goal after Torres passed the ball to Gavi before proceeding to cut inside, the 18-year-old would then give the ball back to Torres who scored yet again despite nearly fumbling the ball.

After 20 further minutes of possessive domination from the Spaniards, the substituted Álvaro Morata was put through by Alejandro Balde but was met by Navas. Receiving it back, Morata crossed the ball into Gavi who scored with a beautiful outside-the-foot finish. Gavi’s goal makes him the third youngest player to score in a World Cup.

After a brilliant run by Nico Williams in the 90th minute, he delivered a low cross into the box which was palmed away by Navas. However the ball fell into the path of Carlos Soler who smashed it into the net for Spain’s sixth, this goal was then soon followed by another two minutes later, scored by Álvaro Morata after some combination passing with Dani Olmo to close off a dominant display.

At the end of the game, it was Gavi who was reportedly awarded the player of the match honour after scoring one goal and creating two others that were not counted as assists due to deflections. Although this incarnation of the Spanish National Football Team may not match up as well against other World Cup sides, anything is possible for them with Luis Enrique at the helm.

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