Can Spain win the World Cup? Only if Sergio Busquets continues to defy the ageing process

Spain 7-0 Costa Rica (Olmo 11′, Asensio 21′, Torres pen 31′, 54′, Gavi 74′, Soler 90′, Morata 90+2′)

AL THUMAMA STADIUM — What is the appropriate expression when your team has just lamped the opposition seven zip? Luis Enrique might have wrapped a consoling arm around his opposite number like the under-11 coach whose monster group run through the oppo every week.

He didn’t do that. Instead he gave a fisted salute to a significant other at the end of the game that suggested Costa Rica will not be the last opponent flattened by his heavy roller. The first goal was Spain’s 100th at the World Cup. Had they tried just a tad harder they might have doubled it. Costa Rica were bad, but not as bad as Spain made them look.

There was beauty all over the place. Before we get to that, a paean to Sergio Busquets, the anti-pin-up with a face you would not pick out of a line-up were it stamped with a QR code. The charisma he lacks is balanced by a deep purring substance, like Parker at the wheel of Lady Penelope’s pink Roller: always there, always on time, the Thunderbird’s Thunderbird making sure everything is as it should be.

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In the case of Spain this means winning in a characteristic way, not scoring goals but painting them. There were a few mighty brush strokes here among the blizzard that peppered Costa Rica’s net. For the past 12 years Busquets has been at the heart of La Roja’s circle of life, never disconnected from those around him, always in the right bloody place. He looks in decent nick at 34. In cap years, however, he is ancient, the last of the 2010 champions embarking on his fourth World Cup.

Three months after making his debut he was a World Cup winner. Over and above that, if there is such a thing, Busquets has had one of the great ringside seats in the history of the game, the base of the golden triangle involving Xavi and Andres Iniesta for club and country. Add in the ultimate experience, keeping time with sharing the Nou Camp playing with the Messi-ah in the service of Barcelona, you have to conclude some are just born blessed.

He was the fulcrum of another precision display at Al Thumama, a kind of giant doily standing between Doha’s new-build zone to the south and the desert. This quiet colossus is tasked with shepherding Spain’s next generation maestros, Xavi/Iniesta 2.0, Paez Gavira and Gonzalez Lopez, aka Gavi and Pedri who are the same age combined as CR37.

It was all too much for Costa Rica, who almost seemed relieved when Danny Olmo put the finishing touches to Gavi’s first stellar contribution, the delicately scooped pass erasing at a stroke the opposition defences. The pretence of a contest could stop now, the embarrassment fall away. Olmo’s dinked finish over the keeper was the only appropriate response to a pass like that.

One perfectly weighted swipe of Busquets’ right boot sent the ball wide to Jordi Alba. Busquests didn’t bother looking. Why would he? Alba has been running that channel to his left half his life. In turn Alba picked out Marco Asensio, first time, and the ball was dispatched elegantly, first time. Three passes and in. The penalty tucked away by Ferran Torres just past the half-hour was a blunt instrument by comparison, almost spoiling the canvas.

The drumbeat that accompanied each goal threatens to echo a long way into this tournament. Gavi was an easy pick as man of the match, an absurdly mature 18-year-old with a self-correcting low centre of gravity that always keeps him on his feet. His goal, Spain’s fifth, whacked first time with the outside of his right boot, simply iced his cake.

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