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Winners & Losers

Gavi's a golden boy! Spain winners, losers & ratings as ruthless, rip-roaring La Roja emerge as THE team to beat at World Cup

21:28 GMT+3 23/11/2022
Gavi Spain World Cup 2022
Luis Enrique's side put in a frighteningly dominant display to blow Costa Rica out of the water in their World Cup opener - can anyone stop them?

In a game where just about everyone was braced for endless spells of Spanish possession, they naturally dominated from the off.

It took Dani Olmo just 10 minutes to draw first blood and open the floodgates as Costa Rica buckled completely, unable to get anywhere near La Roja, who bossed the pitch with their tiki-taka style of play.

Spain, decked out in all red, ironically resembled Manchester City with the way they stretched the pitch and shifted the ball so seamlessly from back to front. And while they deserve credit for a rampant and, crucially, prolific performance, it must be stressed that Costa Rica offered nothing to combat Luis Enrique's side.

Instead, they could only stand and watch or chase their tails with very little effort as Spain walked the ball around them for fun, completely controlling the game without breaking a sweat and continuing the impressive display right through to injury time.

GOAL takes a look at the winners and the losers from the rout, as well as how Spain's players rated, as they set a marker and emerged as THE team to beat in this tournament.

  • Gavi Spain World Cup 2022

    The Winners

    Gavi:

    As if having one teenage midfield starlet with all the potential in the world, Spain have two already pulling the strings. Because of course they do.

    Much has been made of the 2022 Golden Boy and whether or not he's actually up to the task quite like his colleague Pedri. But my oh my did he silence those doubters against Costa Rica.

    A slick and mature performance showcased his dribbling ability, his vision and his technique. But what really put the seal on things and highlighted everything that makes him so exceptional was his goal.

    Technique, vision and confidence in abundance. The sheer audacity to take that on. What a player.

    Pedri:

    All the noise ahead of this one was around Gavi, who became Spain's youngest World Cup appearance maker and scorer at just 18 years old.

    With that, it's easy to forget that Pedri is only 19 himself. Far too easy, in fact.

    For a boy that turns 20 in two days' time, his ability is genuinely frightening. The ball gravitates towards Pedri, who constantly has the pitch configured in his head and is almost always in the ideal position. Pair that with his sublime technical ability and incredible vision, and you get the perfect midfielder.

    Are we saying he's the perfect midfielder? No, because he is still a teenager and has years and years to improve - an even more nauseating reality. This tournament is his stage.

    Barcelona:

    See above.

    In a time where Barcelona are constantly on the brink of financial ruin, and one of football's most storied clubs is very fairly considered the embodiment of everything wrong with the modern game, the Blaugrana are still blessed with the two most Barcelona-esque, young midfielders.

    With Pedri and Gavi on the pitch, it's impossible for them to slip any further. The pair serve as a beacon of hope for the club and will inevitably breathe the life back into the Camp Nou needed to propel Barcelona forward once again.

    And if they can't, they can sell them for a lot of money. It's a win-win.

  • Serge Gnabry Germany World Cup 2022

    The Losers

    Pau Torres:

    And an honourable mention to Eric Garcia, too.

    We can make the excuse that this was the opening game against favourable opposition and thus was as good a time Spain will get to play a rotated side, but with Rodri in defence, they looked imperious.

    The midfielder slotted in alongside Aymeric Laporte seamlessly and was crucial in helping his side overload in possession; the key to their game. And when you consider just how consistently he plays that role at Manchester City, it's hard to see a world where Luis Enrique opts for Torres.

    Torres has had far too much hype around him for him to be out in the cold already. It shows what a top, top manager truly thinks of him. Concerning.

    Spain's kit-person:

    We're not 100% sure who is exactly to blame for Gavi donning the number nine shirt and Spain being decked out in an all-red strip, so we'll hazard a guess and point the finger at Spain's kit person.

    Absolutely abysmal. Sure, Spain aren't renowned for playing with an out-and-out centre forward, but that doesn't mean you give the midfielder the striker's shirt. Ever. Not on.

    As for the shorts, some will love it, many will loathe it - and rightly so. Spain look best in blue shorts, simply put. Either someone has had a nightmare with the washing machine or this was an awful decision.

    Germany:

    Having lost 2-1 to Japan in their World Cup opener, the pressure is absolutely on Hansi Flick's side to pick up three points next time out.

    They have to do so at the expense of La Roja, who have looked scintillating.

    Germany are still an incredible side and Costa Rica didn't teach us anything new about Spain's credentials. But when you look at the two side-by-side, Luis Enrique's men look much sharper and more prolific.

    The added pressure of needing a result should have Germany seriously worried...

  • Rodri Spain World Cup 2022

    Spain ratings: Defence

    Unai Simon (6/10):

    The easiest night of work Simon will ever have. David De Gea could've snuck in between the sticks and neither Luis Enrique nor the Spanish FA would've noticed.

    Cesar Azpilicueta (6/10):

    A comfortable evening for the veteran, but questions remain over who will occupy Spain's right-back spot in tougher fixtures. Azpilicueta was unchallenged for the most part and his competition is fellow veteran Dani Carvajal.

    Rodri (8/10):

    Played his role to perfection, as he so often does. Swept up when need, but also stepped forward and helped Spain to dominate. Key to how they want to approach games and will only become more important in the more challenging fixtures.

    Aymeric Laporte (6/10):

    Barely ever needed to see off any attacks, because Costa Rica were that quiet. Laporte kept things simple and was always an option whenever Spain started off one of their many spells of possession.

    Jordi Alba (7/10):

    Rolled back the years with the way he bombed down the left flank to provide width and spray in passes so effortlessly. Granted Costa Rica gave him plenty of room to do so, Alba could've shied away, but didn't.

  • Luis Enrique Pedri Spain World Cup 2022

    Midfield

    Sergio Busquets (6/10):

    Another blossoming Spain team, another all-Barcelona midfield. Except this time, Busquets is the old guard and was perhaps a surprise inclusion. Against a team giving them plenty of space in possession and not much to worry about defensively, though, he didn't need to break sweat. The occasion suited him.

    Gavi (8/10):

    Capped off becoming the youngest player to appear for Spain at a World Cup by becoming their youngest scorer at a World Cup in the same game. And what a goal it was. Having impressed with flicks and tricks all night, Gavi rounded off the evening by running onto a loose ball and volleying it in off the post, with the outside of his boot. Sensational.

    Pedri (9/10):

    A 19-year-old with the brain of a midfield veteran. Absolutely ran the show from the very first whistle with a range of passing and a vision that was levels above anyone else on the field. This is Pedri's world and we are all just living in it.

  • Dani Olmo Spain World Cup 2022

    Attack

    Ferran Torres (8/10):

    Off the mark thanks to a well-taken spot kick, which did Torres the world of good, considering he's endured a rocky time of it on the field of late. Lost the ball but bulldozed a defender to win it back and force his way to two goals on the night, which says it all about his increasing confidence - and Costa Rica's lack of belief.

    Marco Asensio (7/10):

    Looks a natural in that fluent, central role that he has quietly been playing in at Real Madrid. Key to Spain's movement patterns when looking to play the killer pass. It'll be interesting to see if Asensio can remain as important against more challenging opposition.

    Dani Olmo (8/10):

    Incredible balance and technique to open the scoring for La Roja. Spun seamlessly and slotted home coolly. A very important pawn in Luis Enrique's Spanish chessboard, with the way he hugged the touchline and darted inside.

  • Alvaro Morata Spain World Cup 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Alvaro Morata (6/10):

    Crucially got himself on the scoresheet in injury time; key in keeping his name in the hat for bigger games.

    Carlos Soler (6/10):

    Poached his goal brilliantly in the game's closing stages; a fitting summary of Spain's unrelenting quality.

    Alejandro Balde (6/10):

    A bright cameo and one that showed why he's pushing Alba at club level for his starting spot. A night to remember for the debutant and likely the first of many.

    Koke (6/10):

    Provided sufficient energy and technique to deputise for the main-event stars.

    Nico Williams (5/10):

    A proud moment for the 20-year-old to get onto the pitch at a World Cup, but not the most exciting set of highlights.

    Luis Enrique (9/10):

    Watch Pep Guardiola's City, gather your best crop of players and tell them to play as they can do. Textbook stuff from Luis Enrique. He picked the right team, made the right subs and got a big result. Will need his side to keep improving moving forward, but a brilliant starting block.