SOCHI, Russia (AP): Cristiano Ronaldo used the World Cup to show everyone he’s the GOAT.
Ronaldo rubbed his chin after scoring minutes into Portugal’s opener against Spain, implying he is the Greatest of All Time. Then he scored two more goals, including a perfectly placed 88th-minute free kick that gave his team a 3-3 draw yesterday.
Spain, the 2010 World Cup champions, dominated much of the match but were unable to contain Ronaldo.
“When I play against a player like Ronaldo, these things can happen,” newly appointed Spain coach Fernando Hierro said. “It’s very fortunate for whatever team has Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Ronaldo had twice given European champions Portugal the lead with first-half goals at Fisht Stadium, but Diego Costa equalised with a goal in each half. Nacho Fernandez then put the Spanish ahead with a one-timer from outside the area in the Group B match.
Ronaldo became the fourth player to score in four World Cups, joining Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler. He also became the first Portuguese player to appear in four World Cups, and at 33 became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in tournament history.
SENT A MESSAGE
He used his first goal to send a message to the world in an apparent reaction to adidas’ ‘GOAT’ promotion with Lionel Messi, featuring the Argentine with a real goat. Ronaldo and Messi have split the last 10 Player of the Year awards.
“I’ve said it so many times, Cristiano is the best in the world,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.
Ronaldo downplayed his sixth international hat-trick.
“To me, the most important (thing) is to highlight what the team has done,” Ronaldo said.
Spain looked to have successfully overcome their dramatic coaching change on the eve of the tournament but Ronaldo curled a late shot from about 25 metres over the wall. The ball went into the top corner as Spain goalkeeper David de Gea watched.
The Spanish federation fired coach Julen Lopetegui for accepting a job with Real Madrid without letting it know in advance. Hierro, a former player acting as Spain’s sporting director, replaced Lopetegui and was on the bench despite no significant previous coaching experience.
It was an exciting start to one of the group-stage’s most anticipated matches and it didn’t take long before Ronaldo struck first.
Ronaldo made a nice stepover move to get past Fernandez, his Real Madrid teammate, and was fouled at the edge of the area. He then calmly sent his shot to the right corner as De Gea went the other way.
Portugal threatened on counterattacks as Spain struggled to get near Rui Patricio’s goal, but a great long pass by Sergio Busquets allowed Costa to even the match. The striker collided with Pepe and used several neat moves to clear other defenders before firing a low shot into the corner from inside the area.
Ronaldo’s second goal came after a blunder by De Gea, who let the ball bounce off his hands and into the net after a routine shot from outside the area just before halftime.
Busquets and Costa combined for Spain’s equaliser in the 55th. After a cross by Andres Iniesta, Busquets headed the ball back across the area and Costa touched it into the open net.
Three minutes later, Fernandez redeemed himself for the penalty on Ronaldo with a streaking shot after a ball cleared by the defence got deflected towards him. The ball struck the post before going into the goal.