Spain ignite World Cup bid by smashing seven past Costa Rica
Luca Modric's Croatia held by spirited Morocco
Costa Rica midfielder Bryan Ruiz gets up above Spain defender Pau Torres. Captain Koke (left) watches the action.

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Spain launched their bid to lift a second World Cup in spectacular style on Wednesday by shredding Costa Rica 7-0 in a brutal display which will serve as a warning to their rivals.

Avoiding the fate of both giants Argentina and Group E rivals Germany, who lost 2-1 to Japan earlier on, Luis Enrique's fancied side sparkled at Doha's Al Thumama Stadium, dominating possession and taking their chances mercilessly.

Ferran Torres netted twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata were also on the scoresheet for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in an emphatic romp.

Despite earning Spain's biggest-ever World Cup win, Luis Enrique said his team could still improve.

In the past the 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for profligacy but all three forwards Luis Enrique selected netted in the first half to pay back his trust in them.

The coach placed Asensio at false nine, flanked by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.

The coach opted to deploy Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, alongside club teammate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating his team would monopolise the ball.

It took only 11 minutes for La Roja to open the scoring with Gavi feeding Olmo, the RB Leipzig winger taking one sublime touch to turn and another to stroke the ball gently past Keylor Navas.

Olmo's strike was Spain's 100th World Cup goal, La Roja becoming the sixth team to hit that milestone.

Costa Rica, who were a surprise package at the 2014 World Cup in beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, were quickly sliced apart again.

Jordi Alba's low-drilled cross was rammed home by Real Madrid forward Asensio past his former teammate Navas, who might have done more to keep it out.

Torres stroked home from the penalty spot after Alba was fouled by Oscar Duarte — a soft call on a hard night for Los Ticos who were never in the game and failed to muster a shot at goal.

Barcelona forward Torres capitalised on more slack defending to fire the fourth past Navas early in the second half.

Luis Enrique was able to take off the effervescent Pedri and Torres before the hour mark, and handed teenage Barcelona left back Alejandro Balde his debut.

The 19-year-old roared up the pitch in the build-up to Spain's fifth goal, with substitute Morata crossing for Gavi to drill home with aplomb.

Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third-youngest goalscorer at a World Cup at 18 years and 110 days old, after Mexico's Manuel Rosas and record holder Pele.

Soler and Morata then got in on the act with stoppage-time strikes to pile further misery on Costa Rica and help Spain flex their muscles in a perfect opening match in Qatar.

In Al Khor, Morocco held Croatia to a 0-0 draw in their opening game, producing a spirited display against the 2018 runners-up led by Luka Modric.

Backed by Qatar's large Moroccan community at Al Bayt Stadium, the Atlas Lions followed up north African rivals Tunisia's strong performance against dark horses Denmark a day earlier to frustrate Croatia.

Spain forward Ferran Torres (left) celebrates with teammate Gavi after scoring his team's fourth goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha, on Wednesday. (Photos: AFP)

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