Football World Cup: Spain sound warning with big win over Costa Rica in Group C

Spain have begun their Women's World Cup campaign in scintillating fashion, beating Costa Rica 3-0 in their Group C opener, thanks to an own goal, and first-half strikes from Aitana Bonmati and Esther Gonzalez at Wellington.

The teams had played out a draw, when they faced on their World Cup debuts in 2015, but Spain are now sixth in the women's rankings, and it showed in their technical and physical superiority, as they scored three times in a six-minute blitz.

Costa Rica goalkeeper Daniela Solera saved a first-half penalty, but Spain were never threatened at the other end and went top of their group, before Japan's game against Zambia on Saturday.

"Sometimes, our players missed the target, but they played really well," said Spain coach Jorge Vilda. "Obviously, we had more opportunities than we actually took advantage of... we could have been more active in certain plays."

Twice Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas was named among Spain's substitutes, as she made her way back to full fitness, but their most-capped player was not needed in the first half, as Bonmati and Gonzalez ran riot in Costa Rica's box.

"We are going to follow the medical team's recommendations and they said, for today, that Alexia could play a little bit," Vilda said, after Putellas played the last 15 minutes.

"Every single minute from her really counts."

In the pouring rain, Spain dominated possession and pegged Costa Rica back inside their own half right from kickoff, with Athenea del Castillo narrowly firing wide, while Ivana Andres saw her header tipped over the bar.

The relentless pressure finally paid off in the 21st minute, when Gonzalez's cross was turned in by Costa Rica's Valeria del Campo.

Only two minutes later, Spain quickly regained possession and a fine cutback set up Bonmati, who smartly evaded two defenders to curl home Spain's second.


Pulling strings

The Barcelona midfielder had pulled the strings in the final third for Spain, despite a wall of white shirts in the box, and she deservedly earned the Player of the Match award.

"It was important to score three goals when we could," she said. "There are tight results in the World Cup.

"We have a very offensive team to attack open spaces, we aren't a flat team like before."

Costa Rica could have conceded more, if not for the heroics of Solera in goal, as she made timely interventions and reflex saves, but she could do nothing, as Gonzalez scored the third from a rebound off the post.

Solera gave Costa Rica another lifeline, when she saved Jennifer Hermoso's penalty, and she was in fine form in the second half to frustrate Spain.

There were worried faces on the bench, when she went down late in the second half, clutching her leg after  a collision with a teammate, but she managed to continue after some treatment.

Costa Rica had their opportunities on the counterattack, but they were quickly snuffed out and they managed only one shot, compared to Spain's 45.

"For 22 minutes, we were compact, but after the own goal, the whole team lost concentration," said Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde.

"For the second half, we changed our strategy a little bit, but we didn't have chances, despite our best efforts to defend the shirt. We're obviously not happy." 


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