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Japan stuns European giant Germany, 2-1
DOHA — Former champions Spain got their World Cup off to a pulsating start with a record 7-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday as a Ferran Torres brace and a sumptuous strike from Gavi sent them past the 100-goal mark in soccer’s showpiece event.
The European giants put their stamp on a Group E stunned by Japan’s 2-1 victory over Germany, with Spain relentlessly on the attack against a shambolic Costa Rican side who gave Luis Enrique’s team time and space to carve out chance after chance.
It was a night of records at Doha’s iconic Al Thumama Stadium for a Spain side who have struggled at World Cups since winning the title in 2010, with Barcelona 18-year-old Gavi becoming the country’s youngest World Cup player, and the youngest to score since Brazil great Pele in 1958.
Although Costa Rica’s clumsy defending may have flattered Spain, La Furia Roja were seamless in their attacks, with Pedri the enabler at the heart of seemingly every move in a game where Dani Olmo, Gavi and Marco Asensio and Torres all dazzled.
They each found the net as Spain joined the 100 club of World Cup goals, and late strikes from Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata sealed their biggest victory margin in a World Cup finals match.
Spain were in control from the first kick, with Costa Rica dizzied by their early onslaught and unable to find any rhythm.
Spain could have gone ahead twice from chances to Olmo and Asensio, with Pedri the provider.
They went ahead 11 minutes in when man of the match Gavi put the ball into the path of Olmo, who turned and deftly lifted it over advancing keeper Keylor Navas.
Spain got a second on 21 minutes when Jordi Alba’s neat pass across the box found Asensio who fired low past Navas.
Spain were awarded a penalty around the half hour mark when Alba was brought down, with Torres running full-pelt towards the spot before pausing to coolly stroke the ball down the middle.
Costa Rica returned from the break all at sea and failed to record a single attempt on goal in the match.
Torres gave Spain a fourth and on 53 minutes, finding Gavi on the right, who gave it back to his Barcelona team mate to turn and fire home his second.
Gavi found the net himself 16 minutes from time with a superb running volley with the outside of his foot that clipped in off the post before Soler and Morata completed the demolition with goals in the dying minutes.
Gavi said he was thrilled to become Spain’s youngest World Cup player and score a goal at a similar age as Pele.
Costa Rica, the last team to reach the World Cup via an intercontinental playoff, could struggle to win any points in their last two games against Japan and Germany.
Defender Kendall Waston said the team would need to come together and fight back.
His coach Luis Fernando Suarez said his team was outplayed by a far superior side.
JAPAN RALLIES PAST GERMANY
Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored eight minutes apart late in the second half to lift Japan to a 2-1 victory over Germany on Wednesday in the first match of Group E play at the World Cup in Qatar.
Doan scored in the 75th minute and Asano in the 83rd for Japan, which received eight saves from Shuichi Gonda.
German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan converted a penalty to open the scoring in the 33rd minute.
The Germans nearly doubled the advantage just before halftime on an apparent goal from Kai Havertz, however the play was ruled offside.
Manuel Neuer made two saves for Germany, which will look to rebound against Spain on Sunday.
Japan will tangle with Costa Rica.
BELGIUM 1, CANADA 0
Despite inspired play, especially in the first half, Canada just missed out on a major upset over Belgium with a loss in an opener of Group F action.
Michy Batshuayi scored for Belgium just before halftime against the run of play even as Canada continued to push forward throughout the first half.
A missed opportunity came for Canada in the 10th minute when Alphonso Davies had his left-footed shot from the penalty spot stopped by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. In four all time World Cup games, Canada still has not scored a goal. The team went 0-3 in the 1986 World Cup at Mexico.
Courtios made three saves, while Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan had two saves.
Belgium leads Group F outright with three points after Croatia and Morocco tied in their opener.
Canada next plays Croatia on Sunday, while Belgium faces Morocco.
CROATIA 0, MOROCCO 0
Dominik Livakovic made two saves to help Croatia secure a scoreless draw against Morocco in the opener of Group F play.
Nikola Vlasic offered Croatia’s best chance to open the scoring at the end of the first half.
Morocco’s Yassine Bounou made the save — his only one of the match.
Morocco’s top opportunity to dent the scoresheet was Noussair Mazraoui’s header in the second half.
Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up, will look for a better showing on Sunday against Canada.
Morocco will bid for its first win when it faces Belgium on Sunday. — Reuters