Cristiano Ronaldo doomed revenge on Spain with an enthralling hat-trick in Match #4 of World Cup Russia 2018. The Portuguese superstar ensured that his country earned a point to start their campaign in a blockbuster of a 3-3 draw. He also became the 4th player in history to score in 4 World Cups, joining Uwe Seeler, Pelé and Miroslav Klose in the record books.
In the previous two matches that the two nations played against each other, Spain emerged victors: a slender 1-0 win in the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, and a nail-biting penalty shootout win in their semi-final of EURO 2012. Ronaldo suffered at the hands of the Spanish and sought to go into the game to prove a point and settle a score, and so he did — almost to perfection.
This game had an enticing back-story, particularly in Spain’s case, as they were still settling from the tremor of Julen Lopetegui being sacked by the Spanish FA just two days before their opening game due to a breach of contract after signing with Real Madrid during his international reign. His replacement, Fernando Hierro (a former Chelsea and Real Madrid defender), had a lot of damage controlling to do. Many media sources and fans around the world now doubted Spain’s chances of delivering their second World Cup.
Spain’s new Head Coach, Fernando Hierro.
The game began with high intensity, similar to Russia’s opening day spectacle with Saudi Arabia yesterday. Ronaldo opened the scoring from the spot in the 4th minute after being tripped in the box from Real Madrid team-mate, Nacho, sending David De Gea the wrong way. Portugal had the perfect start with CR7 in the spotlight (again). Spain went close to leveling the score in the 26′ as another Real Madrid man, Isco, rattled the crossbar and saw the ball bounce on the line and out. The Spanish midfielder requested that the VARs (Video Assistant Referees) intervene and have their say, but their input was not needed as GLT (Goal-Line Technology) settled that matter. Las Rojas did find an equalizer, though, as Atletico Madrid and former Chelsea striker, Diego Costa (typically) muscled his way past Pepe and smashed it in the bottom left corner. 1-1 in the 24th minute.
L: Ronaldo’s penalty; R: Costa’s first equalizer.
Spain grew more and more confident as the half went on, building upon their response to falling behind. But Ronaldo dented their comforts once again with a long-range shot that trickled over the line after De Gea (somehow) managed to spill it. Most people started to compare Manchester United’s three-time Player of the Year to Liverpool’s Lloris Karius (after a horrow show in this year’s Champions League final), but I’d say that was more like England’s Robert Greene against USA in the 2010 World Cup. What a nightmare that was. I still get sick in the stomach to this day whenever I see it. But, to Portugal’s delight, they went into the break with a 2-1 advantage.
Ronaldo’s second goal of the night.
Spain tried to restore themselves in the second half, re-surfacing their 2010 version of tiki-taka. Rather fittingly, the Spaniards deservedly equalized for the second time on the night in the 55′, as (guess who) Diego Costa bundled the ball in from Sergio Busquets nodded pass. Ronaldo 2-2 Costa. At this point, this was, by far, the best entertainment we’ve gotten all day after two lackluster games (by World Cup standards) prior to this one. What a treat! But wait… there was more. We witnessed the goal of the night three minutes later after Nacho fired an absolute belter from 20 yards out, off the left post and in. How’s that for making up for conceding a penalty? De Gea must have been relieved to see that as well. What a way to score your first international goal. The technique, the precision — sheer class!
Nacho’s smashing effort which made it 3-2 to Spain.
Spain looked the better from then on, frustrating Portugal with their passing. Isco looked brilliant in midfield, and Thiago picked up where Isco left off when he came on. Ronaldo was frustrated. He couldn’t even get a sniff of the ball in the attacking third… until the 88th minute when he stepped up to take a 25-yard free-kick. His last free-kick earlier in the game went smashing into the Spanish wall, so many were expecting more of the same. But cometh the moment, cometh the man. The big man. The big man who lives for big occasions. CR7 looped the ball over the wall and into the top corner, leaving poor De Gea rooted. The current Ballon D’Or holder registered the first hat-trick of the 2018 World Cup and Portugal’s first point of the tournament, ensuring that Spain’s recent jinx of not winning their opening World Cup games continued — 2010: Switzerland (L), 2014: Netherlands (L). Sweet revenge for Ronaldo! This surely made up for the heartache Spain caused him in 2010 and 2012, and he made a statement to the other two teams in the group too.
Ronaldo’s stunning free-kick which sealed his hat-trick.
The Budweiser Man of the Match award, quite rightly, went to the hat-trick hero; and I could hardly disagree. He must surely get a complete massage after carrying his team on his back today. On to you tomorrow, Lionel. Take the hint.
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Budweiser MOTM.
Group B ended Matchday 1 with Iran leading with 3 points, Portugal and Spain with a point apiece, and Morocco at the bottom with 0; while Uruguay’s late win against Egypt in the early game ensured that they stay close to Russia in 2nd place in Group A.
Image Credit: FIFA™
Other World Cup results today:
Egypt 0-1 Uruguay
(J.M Jiminez 89′)
Morocco 0-1 Iran
(Bouhaddouz OG 90+5′)
Other FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™ Blogs: