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Spain vs Portugal
2018 FIFA World Cup, Group B
|Olimpiyskiy Stadion Fisht|
Pure football drama. This game had almost everything. One of the great World Cup matches.
Spain had a shaky start, with Nacho giving away a penalty just three minutes into the game when he tripped Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, who had never scored against Spain, sent de Gea the wrong way to get his first against them.
Portugal then went on to look incredibly dangerous on the counter, putting a lot of pressure on the Spaniards.
That pressure was short lived however as Spain started to find their feet.
And then in the 24th minute Diego Costa received a long ball, shrugged off Pepe and somehow created space between two defenders to place the ball into the side of the net to equalise for Spain.
From there it was almost all Spain as they kept the ball and remained patient building up to attacks.
They came agonisingly close, with Isco’s effort hitting the underside of the bar and bouncing off the goal line.
Spain dominated right until the end of the half, but football can change in an instant, and one defensive error is all it took.
Late in the first half Ronaldo took a shot from distance right at David de Gea, who’s blunder gifted Portugal the lead against the run of play.
It was reminiscent of England’s Robert Green in 2010 against the United States.
Spain started horribly in the first half, but came out firing in the second.
They dominated possession early before a clever set-piece move saw Diego Costa get his second goal of the night from close range to once again bring Spain level.
Then, just minutes later, Nacho redeemed himself.
The ball fell to him outside of the box and he fizzed a half-volley into the side netting to give Spain a 3-2 lead with 30 minutes to play.
Spain seemed to have everything under control but then with two minutes to play Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled in a dangerous area.
Ronaldo stepped up and put the ball up over the wall and into the top corner to make it 3-all and bagged himself a hat-trick in the process.
That was the last twist in the tale, thus ending one of the greatest World Cup matches in history.
Group B favourites and traditional rivals Spain and Portugal clash in their opening World Cup fixture. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am AEST.
Spain were one of the favourites going into the tournament, however the side had a massive shake-up just two before the tournament started.
Manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked as head coach ahead of the news that he was taking over Zinedine Zidane’s position at Real Madrid.
Spain’s sporting director Fernando Hierro was appointed manager for the competition.
They may be under new management but have Spain still have a highly experienced squad – particularly in defence.
Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is arguably the best in the world in that position while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are widely regarded as one of the world’s best centre back pairings at international level.
Portugal enter the World Cup confident coming off the back of a European Cup win in 2016.
They’ve also had a positive run in pre-tournament friendlies, holding a powerful Belgian side to a nil-all draw before a dominant 3-nil win over Algeria.
Although the story for Portugal, as it usually does, surrounds captain and star man Cristiano Ronaldo.
At 33 years old, this World Cup may very well be Ronaldo’s last so expect him to feature heavily in the game regardless of the narrative.
Spain are still the favourites in the game, but the late managerial change provides Portugal with the perfect opportunity to take advantage. Expect a fun game.
Spain 1 – 1 Portugal
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am AEST.