Cometh the hour cometh the man! Fans at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi were treated to an early ‘Game of the Tournament’ contender as Cristiano Ronaldo scored yet another hattrick to steal a late 3-3 draw for Portugal vs Spain. It was an absolute treat of a match, especially for all the neutrals.

Portugal started the game on the front foot. They looked threatening in the opening minutes before Nacho stuck out a leg and brought Ronaldo down in the box, giving away a penalty. Ronaldo being arguably the best penalty taker in the world, sent De Gea the wrong way and sent the Portugal fans in raptures. It took Spain a few minutes to finally get into the game when we started seeing them have longer spells of possession. Ironically, their first goal had nothing to do with the beautiful football one associates them with. A ball over the top to Diego Costa is usually a good strategy and the same showed here. He bullied Pepe and Fonte before unleashing a powerful strike to the bottom left corner of the goal. It is stil quite evident what an animal Costa can be when backed properly.

Both teams traded blows. Isco seemed most likely to score with his volley hitting the crossbar and rebounding off the line. He had Patricio beaten there. It seemed to be going to HT at 1-1. Then, a moment of madness from De Gea of all people! Arguably one of the top 2 keepers in the world, he did no good to his reputation as he let a regulation shot from Ronaldo trickle into the bottom corner. Advantage Portugal at Halftime.

The second half started rather slowly with both teams trying to work themselves into the half. Neither wanted to make an error. That was until Costa struck yet again. Definitely not his most prolific goal as a very well worked freekick routine got Spain back on level terms. Common footballing knowledge tells us that you’re most likely to concede as soon as you have scored a goal but we still keep getting surprises in football. Arguably the biggest surprise of the match, we had another goal of the tournament contender but from an unexpected source, Nacho Fernandez scored a scorcher of a goal from outside the box. One of the sweetest strikes you’ll ever see off a bouncing ball. Hit the post and went in.

All of a sudden in a span of 3 minutes Portugal found themselves 3-2 behind after going 2-1 up. They brought on Joao Mario, Quaresma and Andre Silva while looking for an equaliser. Nacho would have thought he had redeemed himself after that early penalty. It was not meant to be though, as on the biggest of stages, yet again one name stood up and managed to salvage something for his team. In the 87th minute, as he lined up his freekick, you could almost feel the anticipation in the crowd. Everyone expected something to happen. And it did. Ronaldo did not disappoint. A picture perfect freekick which left De Gea stranded crushed Spain’s hope of a winning start to their World cup Campaign. Portugal could’ve won it from there had it not been for a last-ditch challenge from Koke to block Quaresma after he got pat 2 defenders.

We can unanimously agree that this was the best game in this world cup thus far. Both teams showed some of their strengths but also showed their defensive frailties. Spain were uncharacteristic both in attack and defence. This was a team that only conceded 3 goals in their 10 qualifiers. Their goals too were not the conventional Spanish goals one has come to expect. They did have moments in the game where they managed to showcase their midfield passing prowess but never managed to convert that into a beautifully crafted goal.

Diego Costa once again showed the world what a nuisance he can be for defenders. Even the infamously notorious Pepe had a hard time against him today. In a midfield featuring players like Iniesta and David Silva Isco has managed to lock down a place for himself. His performance speaks for itself.

On the Portuguese side, Ronaldo’s brilliance really outshone all his teammates but someone like a William Carvalho did show glimpses of his potential today while facing probably the best midfield trio he would have ever faced. A Captain leads from the front and that is exactly what Ronaldo did. Portugal played narrower on the left side today with Guedes and Ronaldo constantly switching between Left Wing and Centre-Forward. The heart-in-mouth moment for Portuguese fans would have come when Ronaldo seemed to have pain in his left ankle in the dying moments of the game. He did finish the game though, so hopefully, the knock was not too serious.

Some Interesting match facts:

  1. At 33, Ronaldo is the oldest player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup finals.
  2. This was Ronaldo’s 51st personal hat-trick and it was also the 51st hat-trick scored at the world cup finals.
  3. Ronaldo scored 3 goals combined in his previous 3 world cups combined, he scored 3 in this game alone.
  4. Diego Costa’s goal was his first shot on target in the World Cup finals.

This match sets up the group beautifully with both Portugal and Spain having to focus more on the margin of their victory in order to top their groups. This is the game of the tournament at the moment but if we were to have better games than this, then boy are we in for a treat this summer!

Featured Image via goal.

Twitter sources – Squawka & Fifa

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