Spain routs Costa Rica; Morocco holds Croatia to scoreless draw

Morocco held 2018 runner-up Croatia to a 0-0 draw at the World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday. Morocco managed to stifle Croatia captain Luka Modric, who won the best player award at the last World Cup when he led his country to the final before losing to France.

Feisty Canada still seeks 1st-ever World Cup goal after spirited 1-0 loss to Belgium

Spain's Gavi, left, celebrates scoring his team's fifth goal against Costa Rica with teammate Alejandro Balde during a 7-0 win in Doha. The goal made Gavi the youngest player to score at a World Cup since Pele in 1958. (Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

Spain's young squad got off to a high-scoring start at the World Cup, routing Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday.

Not long after Japan surprised Germany 2-1 in the other Group E match, Spain avoided any chance of an upset with Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres scoring a goal each in the first 31 minutes. Torres, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata added to the lead in the second half.

Olmo's goal was the 100th at World Cups for Spain, which became the sixth nation to score more than 100 times in the tournament.

It was the first time Spain has scored seven goals in a World Cup match.

With Gavi and 19-year-old Pedri starting, Spain also became the first European nation with two teenagers in the starting lineup of a World Cup match in 60 years, according to statistics platform Opta.

Gavi and Pedri were among the many youngsters picked by Spain coach Luis Enrique in a revamped squad in Qatar — the third-youngest team among the 32 nations, after the United States and Ghana.

Gavi then became the youngest goal scorer at the World Cup since Pele in the 1958 final, also according to Opta.

Only five countries have scored more goals than Spain at the World Cup — Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and France.

Croatia-Morocco ends in scoreless draw

Another surprisingly strong performance by an Arab country at the World Cup in Qatar stifled the threat of Luka Modric and held 2018 finalist Croatia to a 0-0 draw.

Morocco's resilient performance came 24 hours after Saudi Arabia sparked the first World Cup in the Middle East into life by beating Lionel Messi's Argentina in one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history.

Tunisia followed that up with a scoreless draw against European Championship semifinalist Denmark.

Morocco's Achraf Hakimi, left, and Croatia's Luka Modric compete for the ball during a World Cup Group F soccer match on Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

Morocco managed to do enough to rein in Croatia captain Modric, who was still his team's best player in their Group F opener and had one of the best chances when his shot just rose over the crossbar in the first half. Dejan Lovran got a shot off at a corner in the second half and Sofyan Amrabat cleared off the line for Morocco to preserve the draw.

"It was a difficult game, especially in the first 15 minutes," Modric said. He said Croatia "missed something up front."

Modric didn't have nearly the same kind of impact he had throughout the last World Cup in Russia when he led Croatia to its first final before losing to France.

That was largely down to Morocco, who harassed and harried the Croatians at every turn, buoyed by their red-shirted fans, who outnumbered and made much more noise than the Croatian supporters.

"They played their hearts out. I congratulate them on that," said Croatia coach Zlaatko Dalic. "They had a really energetic game and they had great support."

The 37-year-old Modric is playing in his fourth and what's expected to be his final World Cup, where he's looking to add an international title to his trophy-laden career with Real Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi had the best chance for Morocco with a thumping second-half shot punched away with both fists by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The result was a major confidence-booster for Morocco and coach Walid Regragui, who was only hired at the end of August — his first international coaching job — and had less than three months to prepare the team for Qatar.

"We were playing against the runners up for the last World Cup," Regragui said. "I'm so proud of the boys. I'm proud of the men."

Modric hopes to replicate magic from Russia

As brilliant as he is, Modric is closer to 40 than 30 now and will need more help from his team if Croatia is going to get to another World Cup final. Forwards Ivan Perisic and Nikola Vlasic weren't the threats they were expected to be against Morocco and Vlasic went off injured in the second half.

"We haven't come here just to compete," Modric said. On the basis of our Russian experience we have ambitions to do the same or even better. But even before that tournament we said let's first set a primary objective of getting past the group stage."

In the second game of Group F action, Canada fell to group favourite Belgium in its first World Cup appearance in 36 years.

Canada next plays Croatia on Sunday, when Morocco takes on Belgium.

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