Whatever England can do, Spain can do better… but does beating hapless opposition in your opener really turn someone into an instant World Cup contender?
That should happen in their next game on Sunday against a German side who will be fighting for their future in this tournament. after their shock loss to Japan.
There was still plenty for Spain and their supporters to savor at the Al Thumama Stadium, of course, especially Gavi’s delicious volley to make it 5-0, but it was clear from the start that he was was a huge mismatch and the score reflected the huge chasm between the two shores.
Costa Rica were the last team to qualify for Qatar, thanks to a play-off win over New Zealand in June, but unless there is a huge improvement, they look like they are one of the first teams to be eliminated.
Spain tore them up too easily, sometimes straight through midfield, and the game ended like a contest after barely half an hour when Ferran Torres converted a penalty to make it 3-0.
They continued to advance in waves in the second half and more goals followed even after Enrique made a series of changes – like England, some of their substitutes got involved in the scoring.
Costa Rica outdated and outclassed
Costa Rica weren’t just passed – they shot 241-1,043 – they were also outplayed and failed to muster a single shot on goal. The closest to that was four touches in the Spanish zone, two in each half.
Former England defender Gary Neville saw the dismal statistics more as a sign of the severity of the 2014 quarter-finals than the quality of Spain.
“Well done to Spain, they’ve done their job,” Neville said on ITV. “I didn’t think Costa Rica could get worse in the second half, but they overcame their performance in the first half. They were hesitant. They were a mess.
“I can’t measure Spain on that at all. Costa Rica are the first team in 32 years not to have a shot on goal, that can’t happen.
“They had several World Cups. There was nothing today. I have no idea what just happened.
“Spain keep the ball, we know that, but it’s as bad as that for a team that has a lot of experience.”
Former England goalkeeper Rob Green added on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Spain were brilliant but I’m tempted to say this game won’t tell us much about them in this tournament. ‘opposition, Costa Rica really ‘ This made it difficult.
“They took a walk in the park for Spain. Realistically, the substitutions Spain made in the second half, they were bleeding young people, resting old legs; Costa Rica knew the game was over.”
Spain’s ‘perfect performance’
You could say, of course, that not allowing your opponent to go for the goal while scoring seven yourself is nothing to sniff at, and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague preferred to focus on the positives for Spain.
Balague told 5 Live: “It was just the perfect performance, you could see it after three goals Costa Rica gave up.
“But how many shots on target for Costa Rica? Or attempts? Zero. In the World Cup you don’t get that kind of performance, the same way you don’t get the kind of performance that England has data against Iran.
“We are talking about the same kind of level. They are, at the moment, it seems, ahead of the others.”
Should Spain enjoy a rare good start?
Perhaps we’d better not think about what the size of this Spanish victory means and instead focus on the fact that they have, for once, started their World Cup with a victory.
They had lost their opener in all three of their previous tournaments, including South Africa 2010 where they won it – and it was clearly unwise to jump to conclusions about their prospects at the time.
It was Germany and Argentina who were upset this time and, in a tournament that was full of shock results in its early days, young Spanish stars like Gavi and Pedri instead sent a statement of intention that they could be the ones causing some surprises in the coming weeks.
Green added: “That’s what Spain needed. Going into this tournament they had a few questions, the young players are coming, can they find and find answers? Well, it’s been a training session. perfect workout for them because that’s pretty much what it was.
“It wasn’t a contest, it was a warm-up. There will be bigger games to come, but if you get over 1,000 assists in a game then that’s an incredible achievement.”
What was the Spanish verdict?
Naturally, the Spanish players seemed quite happy with their performance, as well as the result.
Dani Olmo, who opened the scoring with what was Spain’s 100th World Cup goal, said: “I don’t think it’s about bad Costa Rica. It was about the strength of our team.
“I think the win was what we needed. We deserved to win after winning the game against them. I think our team is strong and that’s the way we have to go. It was a confidence boost to for sure.”
But managers are rarely satisfied so easily and, just as England boss Gareth Southgate hailed his side’s attacking display against Iran but was unhappy to see them concede a few late goals, Spain boss Enrique called his side a ‘outstanding’ – before adding that they can do better next time.
“Our goal is to dominate the game all the time, and for that you have to have the ball,” Enrique told TVE.
“Your opponent is tired and can’t get in, our pressing was outstanding and the 16 players we used were superb – although we still have room to improve.”