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Spain's latest version of tiki-taka a joy to behold as they set benchmark

The 2010 champions trounce Costa Rica 7-0 with Barcelona teenagers Gavi and Pedri among those to put on a show.

Gavi produces a stunning volley.
Gavi produces a stunning volley.
Image: PA

Spain 7

Costa Rica 0

A JOY TO behold.

Spain illuminated this World Cup with a performance that was so reminiscent of their glory years that it felt more like a curtesy than a simple nod to the past.

This was tiki-taka 2.022.

As opening nights go, this was the benchmark.

Poor Costa Rica were left spinning by the end, the final pass count of 994 completed from 1,056 giving an indication of the type of evening they had to endure, while the emphatic 7-0 score line illustrates that the cutting edge of Luis Enrique’s side in the final third matched their complete dominance in every other aspect.

The Spanish boss made history before a ball was even kicked when he named Gavi (18) and Pedri (19) either side of 34-year-old Sergio Busqets in a three-man midfield.

It was the first time that a European team named two teenagers in a starting XI for a World Cup fixture since Bulgaria against England 60 years ago.

On this evidence there could be further records set to tumble.

The manner in which the young Barcelona duo dutifully, and masterfully, went about their craft alongside Busquets was thrillingly relentless.

Get the ball, pass the ball.

Get the ball, pass the ball.

And when you haven’t got the ball? Work to get it back.

When Spain ruled the world, winning the 2010 World Cup either side of back-to-back European Championships, their dominance was trademarked by those same virtues.

For Gavi and Pedri see Xavi and Iniesta. The teenagers are only embarking on the start of their journeys, albeit Pedri was named young player of Euro 2020, but with the attitude to match their talent the destination is theirs to determine.

Busquets is still fighting the good fight – such was Spain’s dominance in this clash he could be rested with a little under 30 minutes remaining. He will be needed to anchor the midfield against Germany on Sunday and, after their shock defeat to Japan earlier in the day, a reaction will surely be forthcoming.

But it’s Spain who top the group and it will take some effort to dislodge them.

Maybe as they go deeper in the competition and opponents are capable of having more of the ball, as well as proving more of a test for a defence which had Manchester City’s Rodri at the heart of it, their resolve will be tested.

Still, this was a marker being set down by Spain, Gavi’s beautifully cushioned volley in the 74th minute making it 5-0, ensuring he also went into his country’s record books as their youngest scorer on this stage at 18 years and 110 days.

Gavin Cooney
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He only celebrated that milestone in August but operated down that right side with such an understanding and appreciation of space it was almost unnerving to think how good he could become.

It was from that position that he set up Spain’s fourth goal in the 54th minute, cruising free and then getting his head up to pick out a pin-point cross for Ferran Torres who successfully converted at the second time of asking.

The game was already won in the first half, a three-goal lead provided courtesy of Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio and Torres from the penalty spot.

The second goal of that three – Asensio’s first-time finish from Jordi Alba’s pass – the final act of a 28-pass move that began when Gavi helped win it back near his own penalty area and was carried forward up the pitch with Busquets and Pedri instrumental.

In the pre-tournament predictions, it was referenced that Spain had lost more opening matches (seven) than any other country. They made a mockery of that hoodoo by scoring seven, the last two goals struck by substitutes Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morato in injury time.

But it’s another duo, Gavi and Pedri, who captured the imagination for a Spain team rediscovering what it is to be great. Against Costa Rica, at least.

For the latest news coverage on the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, see here >

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