Football Features

“She’s a joke” – Aitana Bonmati runs the show as Spain thrash Costa Rica in World Cup opener

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:32, 21 July 2023 | Updated: 14:32, 25 July 2023

Aitana Bonmati was the name on everyone’s lips as Spain beat Costa Rica 3-0 in their Women’s World Cup opener.

The build up to the World Cup for Spain was dominated by their off-field issues, with 15 players taking themselves out of contention after last season’s European Championships due to unhappiness with the way the federation were running the national team, as well as the position of Jorge Vilda as manager.

But as the World Cup approached, a number of players made themselves available for selection, not including Barcelona centre-back Mapi Leon who stuck to the cause. Of those who did make themselves available, only three were picked with Bonmati joined by Mariona Caldentey and Ona Batlle.

For Bonmati, the World Cup represents a chance for the Spaniard to further cement herself as the best midfielder in the world right now, especially with the door open for the Ballon d’Or Feminin this year. Alexia Putellas has won the award in each of the past two years but having missed the majority of the 2022/23 campaign due to injury, a new name should be on the award.


Bonmati is many people’s favourites for the Ballon d’Or Feminn after she starred for Barcelona as they won the Liga F and Women’s Champions League double, coming from behind to beat Wolfsburgin the final of the latter. During the campaign, Bonmati scored 14 goals and provided 17 assists, ensuring Barcelona didn’t miss Putellas as much as they might have.

One of the first names on the Spanish team sheet, Bonmati started as part of a double pivot alongside Teresa Abelleira, but the Barcelona midfielder pushed up the pitch a lot especially as Spain played with a front six at times trying to break down a resolute Costa Rica defence.

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It took Spain 21 minutes to eventually break the deadlock in what was a good performance for Costa Rican goalkeeper Daniel Solera, as Valeria del Campo put the ball into her own net after a cross from Esther Gonzalez. Within six minutes it was 3-0, with Esther netting the third, reacting quickest after Jenni Hermoso hit the bar — following Bonmati making it 2-0.

In such as a short period of time, Bonmati’s goal displayed almost everything she is good at, receiving the ball in the box and opening up space with a neat turn before coolly finishing past Solera. Of course, Bonmati’s performance wasn’t just about her goal, with her overall passing play at a high level even when you regard the quality of the opposition.

Bonmati ended the game with seven shots, two chances created, 87 touches and 56 of her 63 passes completed on top of seven recoveries. For many, a strong Spain run at the World Cup could be enough to secure Bonmati the Ballon d’Or, and the calls were ramping up on Friday.

“She’s an exceptional player and one that I really enjoy watching,” Fara Williams said on BBC’s coverage of the game.

Spain had the chance to make it 4-0 in the first half but Jenni Hermoso missed from the penalty spot, and we’ve not seen five spot-kicks in five games at the World Cup so far, with just two scored.