World Cup: Seven-goal Spain crush Costa Rica as Gavi announces arrival on world stage

Youngest Spaniard to play in the World Cup becomes their youngest scorer with beautiful strike

The age of Gavi is upon us. The youngest Spaniard to grace the World Cup stage became their youngest goal scorer, and what a beautiful one-touch finish it was from the diminutive 18-year-old.

Pele, at 17 years and 239 days, still holds the outright record.

More about Pablo Martín Páez Gavira anon.

Atención! Grupo de la muerte. Saturday night, at 7pm European prime time, among the dunes of Al Bayt stadium, comes a battle that already has a House Harkonnen versus House Atreides feel to it. The creaky Germans versus the silky Spanish is the sort of aristocratic occasion that makes the globe stop spinning as everyone peers in.


Japan’s thrilling 2-1 defeat of Germany happened a few hours before these young matadors toyed with Costa Rican bulls, keeping them upright, not quite as cruelly as watching the real thing in Seville’s Plaza de Toros, but just as captivating.

This was a rout but there was nothing violent about Spain, at half-pace, decked in full blood red, delicately rounding Costa Ricans as if they were training cones.

First off, more Fifa spoofing needs talking about. The official 40,013 could not possibly be true if the Al Thumama Stadium holds 44,400. Somebody somewhere is lying about these attendances. The Spanish and Costa Ricans showed up but these numbers do not tally with all the empty seats.

At least Fifa’s passing counts are believable, as Spain fell six shy of the 1,000 mark to Costa Rica’s miserable 166.

We heard from down below that Graeme Souness suggested he could have “played where Busquets did today” and while the 69-year-old Scot had a savage career at Liverpool, Sampdoria and Rangers, he never existed on the same plain as The Octopus.

Vicente del Bosque, that old schemer who managed Spain to the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 glory, by leaning into the tiki-taka model perfected by Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and a gangly young boy who emerged from La Masia, Barcelona’s farmhouse, said it best: “You watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the game.”

That gangly young boy sits deep now, gracing the pitches of Qatar at what need not be his last major tournament, despite being 34, because Sergio Busquets looks like he can control games at the highest level deep into his forties.

He barely moves, but watch him step into the space before the ball is even played, to reinforce what Johann Cruyff said about him as a 20-year-old. “With the ball he makes what is difficult look easy ... Without the ball, he gives us a lesson: that of being in the right place to intercept.”

One example had nothing to do with the seven goals Spain plundered but it shows how he helps the Barca clones of Xavi and Iniesta to float freely ahead of him. Spain’s last golden era has only just passed, but in Pedri and Gavi they possess teenagers capable of reliving the 2010s throughout the 2020s.

But Busquets, the master sitting beneath them, almost conjured a goal for the ages with a back heel on the stroke of half-time that allowed Pedri to give Marco Asensio a gallop on Keylor Navas’ goal.

Navas, the Paris Saint Germain ‘keeper, had a poor match, even considering the Spanish flow must have been a nightmare to face.

When Spain decided to stop trying one touch passing into the net, it was Gavi who allowed himself a second touch to loop the ball for Dani Olmo to open the tournament account after 10 minutes.

Spain might provide the perfect mix of experience and youth, as seen from Jordi Alba’s neat cross for Marco Asensio to make it 2-0. Ferran Torres made it 3-0 from a penalty down the middle after Navas dived early. This sparked a Mexican Wave, always a welcome sight, as Spain slowed to a trot before the second half explosion.

Ferran’s second was again created by the rapid mind of Gavi, with the Barca striker splashing the net despite a sea of Costa Rican bodies.

Gavi’s first World Cup goal was created by Alejandro Balde bursting forward and a lovely Álvaro Morata assist for the teenager to finish as if he was playing with kids on the road.

Next, a brilliant dribble by Nico Williams and low cross from the Athletic Bilbao winger was palmed away by Navas, straight to Carlos Soler who slashed the sixth in injury time, before Morata’s clever one-two with Olmo snatched a late, late seventh that manager Luis Enrique celebrated by relaxing into his comfy seat in the dugout and pursing his lip. Germany surely on his mind.

Some comedic scenes brought the curtain down on this goal spree as all six foot five inches of Kendall Waston got into a stand off with five foot eight Gavi after the big Costa Rican brought his full weight down upon Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte.

Forgettable game yet memorable occasion as a rare prodigy rises to the zenith of the game.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent