As if the 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday wasn’t bad enough news for Germany’s interests at the World Cup, another piece of bad news was added in the evening. One of the strongest teams in terms of play and form at the World Cup so far awaits the team of national coach Hansi Flick next Sunday in the second of three group games: Spain.
The 2010 world champions stunned with an impressive monologue against Costa Rica on Wednesday night – and turned their opening game into a game with no further history than one of boundless dominance. Spain won 7-0 to top the Group H table ahead of Japan and Germany – and delivered a subtle message of diversity.
The World Cup organizers had chosen Raphael’s “Mi Gran Noche” as the Spanish goal anthem; a song that is one of the classics at Christopher Street Day parties on both sides of the Atlantic. According to the result, it was sent through the loudspeakers of the Al Thumama Stadium seven times. And the first catchy tune of the World Cup.
If the match hadn’t been a 90-minute football game but a boxing match – Costa Rica’s coach Luis Fernando Suárez would have thrown in the towel after the 0:3 at the latest. That means after a good half hour of play, because by then it was clear that this Spanish team has pretty much everything that makes a good team, and more of that than Costa Rica.
Spain has pretty much everything that makes a good team at the World Cup
In detail: seriousness, technical staff, coordinated movements, enthusiasm, creativity, speed, aggressiveness, the experience of the game’s luminaries like Busquets, Azpilicueta and Alba – and an excess of enviable youthfulness embodied by players like Gavi and Pedri who almost still have baby teeth. Basically, only one question remained unanswered on Wednesday: how resilient goalkeeper Unai Simón is. Simón would have had enough time to go to the manicure. Throughout the game, Costa Rica, as if wanting to be a faithful representative of a country without a military, never once shot at the Spanish goal.
The Spaniards’ game, on the other hand, was a single declaration of intent from the start. Coach Luis Enrique did without a classic nine – and told his three-man storm of Dani Olmo (Leipzig), Ferran Torres (FC Barcelona) and Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) to change positions every few minutes and space behind the awkward and fast desperate to seek confused Central American defenses.
And then there was the invention of the “false four,” or “false six,” as you will. In the central axis, Luis Enrique offered the classic six busquets in midfield, and as a nominal defender another “six”, Rodri, who was also born. Lo and behold: With Rodri at Laporte’s side, Spain’s recently shaky defensive seemed secure and enviably varied in the build-up.
Olmo had the first chance after three minutes, and Asensio the second after 9 minutes; the ball rolled just past the goal. Olmo took the lead in the 11th minute, chipping past goalkeeper Keylor Navas after a lob from Gavi inside the box. Ten minutes later, Asensio was free in the heart of the Central Americans’ penalty area – and converted a cross from left-back Alba directly. Then came the hour of Ferran Torres, who is called “el yerno” in the team, the son-in-law because he is in a relationship with the daughter of national coach Luis Enrique.
Torres, employed at FC Barcelona and there in the shadow of Robert Lewandowski, scored before the break to make it 3-0 with a penalty kick (31st) and after halftime from the game (54th). The 5:0 was a feast for the eyes made in Gavi. After a deep pass, substitute nine put Álvaro Morata into the penalty area, where Gavi shot straight.
The ball hit the right inner post. At 18 years and 110 days, Gavi is now the second youngest World Cup goalscorer in history – behind a certain Pelé. Goals six and seven were scored by two substitutes: Carlos Soler (90′) and Morata (90′ + 2), as a cruelty of the host Fifa had begun: an eight-minute overtime for long-beaten Costa Ricans.