Cristiano Ronaldo makes GOAT case with hat-trick as Portugal draw Spain
SOCHI, RUSSIA -- Three points from Portugal and Spain's remarkable 3-3 draw at Fisht Stadium in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored a sublime hat-trick.
1. Ronaldo's three goals earn Portugal a point
For a guy whose deeds are so often defined by numbers, whether it's the fact that he has more goals than games for Real Madrid or the fact that nobody has more Ballon d'Or awards stashed away in his trophy cabinet, there was one that seemed out of sync before this World Cup began: three, as in the number of goals that Cristiano Ronaldo had scored in the World Cup to date.
Yet he remedied that perceived dearth against Spain Friday, nabbing a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw to open their World Cup campaign. The first was a penalty he won himself, his nifty stopover prompting Nacho to dangle a leg over which Ronaldo gleefully fell. The second was a gift from David De Gea, who pushed his edge-of-the-box snap shot over the goal line, though again, there's something to be said for Ronaldo's alertness on the break that he was there to capitalize on Goncalo Guedes' layoff following Pepe's defensive clearance. The third was a magisterial free kick that disappeared into the top corner, leaving De Gea flat-footed.
Ronaldo joins Miroslav Klose, Uwe Seeler and Pele as the only players who have scored in four World Cups. He also becomes the oldest player to score a hat-trick in World Cup history, at 33 years and 131 days. And he equals the legendary Ferenc Puskas, the most prolific European-born international goalscorer in history and the second most-prolific overall. (Iran's Ali Daei, at 109, may not be entirely out of his reach either.)
He has broad shoulders, this one, which is a good thing, as a nation is riding on his back.
2. Diego Costa's heroics stand out for Spain
He has, at times, looked like a foreign object in a Spain shirt. Even as Julen Lopetegui's side romped through qualification to the World Cup, Diego Costa managed just nine appearances, lasting 90 minutes on just three occasions. But against Portugal he showed just how much value there is in him being so different.
The first goal was vintage Costa: the angry forearm clear-out on Pepe, the deceptively quick legs to send Jose Fonte the wrong way, the threaded smash between two opponents. The second carried his hallmark too, as he used his physicality and hunger to get to the ball first and nudge it past Rui Patricio. The rest was selflessness, sacrifice and running battles with Pepe and Fonte, but always on the right side of VAR.
Just what Spain needed.
3. A fair result for both teams
The table shows Iran leading the group following their late 1-0 win against Morocco. But beyond the drama of a see-saw game -- one of the best group openers we've seen in a long time -- and the fact that they are two points off the top, there are positive takeaways for both teams.
Spain ultimately controlled much of the game and can chalk up two of the goals conceded to uncharacteristic individual errors. There's some tweaking to be done but the post-Lopetegui meltdown simply didn't materialize.
As for Portugal, it was always going to be a dog-fight of a group. But a point against Spain is a massive boost ahead of their next game, coming against a Morocco side already with their backs to the wall.
Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.