Spain cruise into World Cup last 16 in ruthless 5-0 victory over Zambia

<span>Photograph: Abbie Parr/AP</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/lgP1.ERS5xnpoVSukaLZtA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/5d756259ae9a2e4a7c0821036560faa3″ src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/lgP1.ERS5xnpoVSukaLZtA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/5d756259ae9a2e4a7c0821036560faa3″></img></p>
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<p><figcaption><span>Photograph: Abbie Parr/AP</span></figcaption></p>
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<p>Spain eased into the last 16 with another performance to suggest that they can be candidates. Zambia’s players, meanwhile, were left lying on the turf in tears, heading home early having conceded 10 in the opening two games of their first World Cup.</p>
<p><span>Related: </span>Japan down Costa Rica and seal last 16 spot in Women’s World Cup </p>
<p>Jenni Hermoso scored twice on her 100th appearance to take her to 50 international goals, with two more from substitute Alba Redondo and a belting opener from Teresa Abelleira completing a 5-0 victory in Aukland.</p>
<p>The goals that eventually ended it took a while to come: after two in the first half, it wasn’t until the final 20 minutes that the scoreline reflected Spain’s dominance, and both Hermoso and Redondo had been made to wait for a VAR review, the announcement of their goals only adding to the confusion. Five was no more than Spain deserved; they had dominated, the depth of their quality again on display. In fact, while there will be far sterner tests, this left the feeling that there is more to come.</p>
<p>So much of the attention, naturally, was on the return of Alexia Putellas, making her first competitive start since the cruciate knee ligament tear that saw her miss the Euros and virtually the whole of last season and taking less than three minutes to fire off her first shot here. But that would reduce a team that has other riches. Here, for example, the inclusion of the dynamic Mariona Caldentey was significant too, Spain easing into a 4-3-3 and beyond Zambia. In those opening minutes especially, Putellas, Caldentey and Hermoso were at the heart of everything, the ball moving around their triangle, always kept away from opponents who forever arrived late.</p>
<p>That trio combined to create the first – although Abelleira still needed to hit a smashing shot into the top corner from outside the area. That was on nine minutes; three minutes later, the same combination brought a second, a lovely exchange setting up a simpler finish. Caldentey released Putellas who lifted a perfect cross to the far post for Hermoso to nod in.</p>
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Spain’s Eva Navarro is chased by Zambia’s Martha Tembo. Photograph: David Rowland/Reuters

Spain, so smooth, were making this look too easy. Which, at times, it was. Defensively, Zambia were as poor as they had been against Japan. With Hazel Nali missing the competition through injury and Catherine Mousonda sent off at the end of the opening game, third choice Eunice Sakala started in goal. She would settle and by the end had made a handful of impressive saves but to begin with was a shaky, unconvincing presence and the players in front of her were similar: that first Putellas effort was the product of three failed attempts to clear.

With the ball, Zambia were largely reduced to going to long to Barbara Banda. The good news was that, quick and strong, she was so willing to wage war on her own; the bad was that it not enough. A superb solo run brought Zambia’s first shot of the World Cup and another one just before half time was cut short by an exceptional tackle from Irene Paredes. If the crowd called Zambia forward, that spoke of a desire to make a match of this rather than a reality.

Related: Zambia’s Barbra Banda: ‘I was a pro boxer. I had no option but to go one way’

Spain were just too good and although there were fewer shots than against Costa Rica, there was a greater fluidity, an identity re-emerging. A third goal from Hermoso was ruled out for offside and Aitana Bonmatí hit a close range shot straight at Sakala after Martha Tembo’s mistake. Her header then slipped away from Sakala soon after the restart. More chances came. Conscious that there will be other, tougher games, so did changes. Putellas was withdrawn at half time, Bonmatí on the hour.

If Spain slowed briefly, they didn’t stop. Zambia’s threat, while intermittent and still all about the impressive Banda, was a little more apparent too. But space was opening and Spain were pouring into it. Redondo held off the last defender and went round Sakala to make it three before Hermoso added the fourth, returned to her by VAR after it had been ruled out by the linesman’s flag. Not that she knew it at first a referee Yeong confusing everyone as she announced: “no goal, no offside, goal, goal”. That scene was repeated soon after for Redondo’s second with five minutes left, Irene Guerrero waiting fingers crossed for the verdict. When at last it came in, it was unanimous: Spain are a serious side.

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