At last! A pulsating World Cup thriller: Ronaldo 3 Spain 3

Portugal 3 Spain 3

Ronaldo 4 Costa 24 Ronaldo 44 Costa 55 Nacho 58 Ronaldo 88

A pulsating knock-out game with both teams going for it.

Not like a first Group game at all.

Earlier, Iran had beaten Morocco 1-0 with a late own-goal, so Iran are now top of Group B.

As we are still settling into the match, Nacho suddenly hangs out a leg against a Real Madrid teammate who is going nowhere and Ronaldo falls over it and a penalty is correctly given.

I knew Ronaldo would bury it. He always does. Nobody is a finer technician on dead balls, nobody practices more than he does, nobody can take as penalty more expertly. He makes the goalkeeper irrelevant.

This time he sidefoots fiercely and perfectly, sends De Gea the other way, makes look easy. He loves set-pieces because that’s when everybody is looking at him and only him.

This is Spain’s second catastrophe of an eventful week, having had their manager sacked by FA chief Rubiales.

The cynic in me wonders: will Portugal try to score again?

After 10, David Silva blazes over the bar, wasting a good chance.

The BBC commentator isn’t identifying the Portugal players often enough, preferring to ramble on about background info.

Watching this, I thought: Spain need Cesc Fabregas as a game-changing sub.

When Iniesta glides to the byeline he cuts the ball back to David Silva but his shot is deflected for a corner on the left.

When Portugal counter-attack at high speed from that cleared corner, Ronaldo plays an exquisite touch square to 21-year-old Guedes (PSG). But the kid takes a touch when he should have tried to smash it.

Then Diego Costa, invisible so far, explodes into action.

Uncharacteristically, ball-keeper Busquets launches a 60-yard pass down the field towards Diego Costa, who demonstrates very fine judgment as he allows centreback Pepe to head the ball while off-balance, then knocks him down and gets the ball and turns Jose Fonte inside out twice before blasting the hardest shot of the season into the bottom corner.

Bloody hell! What a goal! 

A devastating strike that left keeper Rui Patricio helpless

While Isco is busy and productive, I still reckon Spain could use the vision and bottle of Fabregas.

In 44 Guedes turns and plays a tiny one-yard pass square to Ronaldo in the D and he hits a left-foot instashot that skims over the turf and David De Gea can’t make a routine save. Inexplicably, the ball goes into the net off his shin.

A staggering moment. Ronaldo’s late reaction shows he’s surprised that shot went in

Portugal lead 2-1 at half-time.

It’s been a pulsating first half.

When Iniesta is tripped by Moutinho in 54, Spain take the free-kick short from 40 yards out and David Silva clips it to the far post and big Busquets sends his header bouncing down across the goalmouth and Costa is there to knock the ball in from three yards.

In 69, Thiago replaces Iniesta, 34-year-old Quaresma comes on, and Aspas (Celta Vigo) replaces Costa (Atletico Madrid).

Then Spain attack on the left and a loose ball squirts out to the far side and right back Nacho fires a spectacular shot from outside the box that hits the far post and rebounds across the goal before going in.

3-2 to Spain in 83 minutes and they look likely to win 3-2.

Then in 87 minutes Barcelona centreback Pique concedes a skilly foul just outside the box.

As Portugal prepare to take this free-kick on the right side, co-commentator Danny Murphy says Cristiano Ronaldo won’t try to hit it over the wall from there.

Ronaldo has taken 44 free-kicks in major tournaments without scoring.

But he fires this one beautifully over the wall and into the top corner for 3-3.

Jan says, “That was amazing!”
Myles says, “Lionel Messi, are you watching?”

We did not expect to see such a dramatic contest so early in the tournament.

BBC pundit Cesc Fabregas has joined Shearer, Lineker and Rio Ferdinand in the studio.

The belligerent, Brazilian-born Diego Costa was his teammate at Chelsea, so Fabregas was asked what he’s like off the pitch. He said Diego didn’t speak any English but was terrific in the dressing room: “He really was a leader.”

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Starting elevens : PORTUGAL (4-4-2) Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Silva, Carvalho, Moutinho, Fernandes; Guedes, Ronaldo.

SPAIN (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Nacho, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Koke; Silva, Isco, Iniesta; Costa.

Referee Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)

PS. So glad the World Cup started tonight. I didn’t expect it to start until the quarter-finals.