WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — With three goals in four minutes in the middle of a lopsided first half, Spain shattered Costa Rica’s resistance, created the foundation of a resounding 3-0 win Friday and sent a warning to rivals at the Women’s World Cup.
Speculation that Spain was a team weakened by injuries was misleading. They had more than 80% of possession by halftime, 12 corners, 15 shots on goal and had put to rest any concerns over injured players left behind. That the second half didn’t match the first was of little concern.
Spain began its campaign with a performance that demanded attention and brightened a bitter winter’s night in Wellington.
Two-time Ballon d’Or-winner Alexis Putellas started on the bench, wasn’t needed until the 77th minute, and went on to a rousing ovation after her long injury battle.
Though they attacked relentlessly, Spain needed 22 minutes until it opened the scoring – and that came from an own goal. Aitana Bonmati cut the ball back across goal from the left and Valeria del Campo, attempting to clear, sliced the ball into her own net.
Bonmati scored herself a minute later, striking the ball hard and low from the edge of the box. Two minutes later, Esther Gonzalez was on hand to add the third. It mattered little when Jennifer Hermoso missed from the penalty spot in the 32nd, her shot saved by Daniela Solera.
On a night when a cruel southerly wind and stinging rain might have dimmed the spirit and frustrated adventure, Spain was fearless and resilient.
Bonmati was constantly at the hub of things as she had been in Putellas’ absence and for Barcelona when she was MVP in this year’s Champions league. Barcelona provided the backbone of this Spanish team and its inspiration, its engine.
Though the second half didn’t match the first, Spain still stamped on the tournament a performance to be savored. When the world champion U.S. team takes the field for the first time on Saturday in Group E, it will be in the shadow of the Spain’s performance and that might be the standard by which it is measured.
While it didn’t add to its tally in the second half, Spain finished with 45 shots on goal, in itself a testament to its effort and intention.
Costa Rica lifted itself in the second half and competed with more vigor, defended with more rigidity. Sheika Scott made an appearance from the bench at 16, one of the youngest players in the tournament.
And Solera marked her 26th birthday with her outstanding penalty save.