Let’s do this by numbers, shall we? For the first time in four World Cups, Spain won their opening game. Ferran Torres scored his 100th goal in tournament history and 18-year-old Gavi, one of two teenagers in the starting lineup, was their youngest goalscorer.
They were just two of six different scorers, Spain reach this magic figure that the vidiprinter spells out to avoid confusion and express wonder.
They had 16 shots, allowed none in return and scored seven times. No wonder Carlos Soler celebrated his sixth-place finish in the 90th minute with a point and a wink that said, ‘we’re here’. Boy, are they.
There was still time for Álvaro Morata to add two minutes later, with the Spanish No.7 securing Spain’s seventh. Mi Gran Noche by Raphael, a local gay icon, toured the square. It was a great night for sure, Luis Enrique left laughing, his team having applied. Spain have played over a thousand passes and, if the old question was “yes but how much did it matter?”, the new answer seems to be: all of them. Useless? Not even a little. It’s hard to remember a performance as complete as this.
“We were superb in every aspect of the game and I like that we dominated from the first whistle,” Enrique said. “It was very special; everything went well.”
From a Costa Rican perspective, it can be just as difficult to remember a calamitous, aged side ruthlessly torn to pieces by children. For Luis Fernando Suárez’s side, it started badly, never improved and could get worse. “Psychologically, I’m really worried that we can’t get over it,” he said.
Until the end, Spain sliced them, leaving scars, something cruel.
Suárez had expected Spain to have more possession, but not like this. In the end, they just wanted it to stop, but Spain refused. Sometimes intention is everything, and theirs was flawed.
The first of the seven arrived after just 11 minutes, and it could have already been the third. Dani Olmo and Marco Asensio had clear chances before Gavi’s deflected pass saw Olmo produce a nice reverse spin, controlling and spinning to pass Keylor Navas. At that time, Fifa stats, which now take into account when neither team has the ball, showed Spain had 79% possession: 10% contested, but those were contests the selectedon invariably won, an intensity to their excellence. Gavi, as usual, led the press.
He and Pedri – the smooth glider who turns 20 on Friday – dominated the encounter. But then the whole Spanish team did it, a hugely convincing collective effort. The ball kept ringing in Sergio Busquets’ boot, exactly where he wanted it, no need for him to linger any longer.
The wide positions, occupied by Olmo and Ferran Torres, were very wide, the field far too big for Costa Rica to ever get there in time. Asensio was the false 9, mobile and always available.
And perhaps you could call Rodri a false 4, the Manchester City midfielder employed at centre-back but in the parts of the pitch usually occupied by the pivot. “Central defenders will touch the ball more than 100 times,” said Enrique’s assistant Fernando Torres. Rodri had 91 at halftime alone.
Spain, meanwhile, scored three goals. Another long stretch of possession culminated with Jordi Alba flying down the left again, legs whirring. He finds Asensio, who returns the shot: 2-0 after 20 minutes, the pace is set. Navas could have done better, but he wasn’t the only one: it was so one-sided it was absurd.
All in white, ghosts, the players of Costa Rica were not in the match nor in the match reports, nothing to say about them. They were only there as victims. Or, it turned out, the authors. Like the moment Carlos Martínez was bamboozled by Alba. Or the next minute when Celso Borges tripped Alba in his penalty area.
Even the ensuing penalty spoke of superiority, complete control of everything, especially time. Ferran Torres took a break and kicked the ball in: 3-0 after just over half an hour.
At halftime, Spain had 85% possession on the old measure. The surprise was that Costa Rica could claim 15%. The numbers were piling up quickly, the goals soon to four.
This time, perhaps, there was an answer to the inevitable question of whether a wild result hinges on a team being really, really good or their opponents being bad. This time, Costa Rica could be directly implicated, Francisco Calvo kneeling in front of Ferran Torres, Bryan Oviedo unable to do anything either, an irreparable mess allowing the former Manchester City player to score.
Spain made changes, Busquets and Alba off and protected, with Ferran Torres departing to cheers. Nico Williams replaced Asensio and flew towards his opponents. Soler came too. Morata came in and immediately hit the side netting. Hunger has been maintained – even increased – by the new men, the boys, eager to be part of it.
An extraordinary 50-yard pass from Williams, 20, led to Morata clipping a cross from which Gavi struck a superb volley with the outside of his boot. Spain had five, and they still hadn’t finished, continuing until they secured the biggest World Cup win in their history, taking their big night tally to seven.