Portugal and Spain kicked off their 2018 World Cup campaign in incredible fashion, playing out an exhilarating 3-3 draw at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi which included a Cristiano Ronaldo hatrick and Diego Costa brace.
Spain went into the match of gameweek 1 on the back of mass controversy following Julen Lopetegui’s sacking just days earlier for secretly negotiating with Real Madrid to become Zinedine Zidane’s successor.
Fernando Hierro has taken charge of the nation for the tournament but it was Portugal who started as the better side and were quickly rewarded as intricate football by main man Ronaldo resulted in Real Madrid team-mate Nacho bringing him down in the box.
Match referee Gianluca Rocchi wasted no time in awarded the spot kick and Ronaldo confidently struck home past David de Gea’s left to give Portugal a fourth-minute lead.
The early opener prompted Spain’s transition from sloppiness to the quick, precise passing play they’re famous for and drew themselves level before the half-hour mark through striker Costa.
Costa had no right in getting on the end of a Sergio Busquets long-range ball up the field, but he out-tussled Pepe before presenting an excellent piece of composure to work space for himself with two more Spanish defenders in front and a fine finish into the bottom corner.
That was the no. 19’s first shot on target, and goal, at a World Cup and Spain went on to take control from there before Isco cannoned an incredible effort onto the underside of the crossbar and off the goal line immediately after the equaliser.
It was Portugal who went into half-time with a lead though, after catching Spain on the counter and finding Ronaldo on the edge of the area, who struck a fierce low effort towards the ever-reliable De Gea in between the sticks.
The ‘keeper made a shock mistake though, fumbling the shot and watching the ball trickle into his net, meaning Spain had a lot of work to do in the second half if they were to avoid another disappointing opening game result in the World Cup.
A measly start to the second period burst into life as Spain scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead and enter the driving seat for the final half-hour of the match.
Andres Iniesta won a free-kick from 25 yards out which David Silva whipped into the back post and found Busquets, who nodded the ball across goal and into the path of Costa to smash into an empty net.
Moments later, a smart move between Silva and Jordi Alba down the left flank helped them find their way into the box but a scramble led to the ball being partly cleared, however Nacho was waiting.
The defender made perfect contact and pinged a swerving right-footed strike from 20 yards past the hopeless Rui Patricio and off both posts before nestling into the back on the net.
Spain looked to be closing in on a good start to the campaign, but that was before Gerard Pique fouled Ronaldo right on the edge of the area and it was ‘CR7’ to step up and try to complete his hatrick in dramatic fashion.
And that’s exactly what he did, bending a clinical free-kick up and over the wall to secure a celebrated point, meanwhile Spain will see it as a big chance missed and it’ll now be interesting to see who tops Group B.