When Cristiano Ronaldo entered World Cup history with hat-trick against Spain - on this day in 2018

With three years having passed since the day, let us take a look back at a day when Cristiano Ronaldo rewrote history books.

Cristiano Ronaldo in a file photo. (Image: Twitter)

Cristiano Ronaldo has accomplished so much in the world of football that he could retire today and still be called arguably the best to have ever done it. The Portuguese superstar has shattered records aplenty in his career. Amazingly, he doesn’t seem like stopping any time soon either. And while his club form has always been phenomenal, recent years have seen him absolutely shine for Portugal as well. Never was this more evident than in the 2016 Euros or the 2018 World Cup. Indeed, it was on this day in 2018 during a FIFA World Cup match that he broke even more records.

With three years having passed since the day, let us take a look back at a day when Cristiano Ronaldo rewrote history books.

The background

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was only a day old and already had football fans around the world buzzing. Day 1 saw hosts Russia register a dominant 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.

The Russians, largely unfancied, suddenly reminded the world that they’re quite good at this football thing. And the second day had a mouth-watering clash waiting – Portugal vs Spain.

The build-up for the two teams could not be more different. Portugal came into the tournament having been crowned Champions of Europe in 2016. Spain, for their part, were embroiled in turmoil.

Spain’s decline since the 2014 World Cup alarmed fans but they came into the 2018 World Cup in good touch. However, everything went down the drain due to an ill-timed press release.

As it turns out, Spain manager Julen Lopetegui was going to become Real Madrid’s new manager after the World Cup. But no one knew about this – until Real Madrid announced it a day before Spain’s first game.

Naturally, all hell broke loose. The biggest casualty was Lopetegui, who had done such a fine job of reviving the Spanish team’s fortunes post the 2014 World Cup.

He was relieved of his duties after the news broke. Spain were suddenly under the interim management of Fernando Hierro.

Even so, the expectation was that Spain would be able to carry on their recent momentum. Unfortunately for them, Portugal and Ronaldo had other ideas.

Cristiano Ronaldo at the treble

The game began in the worst way possible for Spain – they conceded a penalty in the 3rd minute. Ronaldo duly converted and Portugal were on the up.

Spain, however, fought back hard after that and were duly rewarded with an equaliser. Diego Costa was the man who levelled proceedings in the 24th minute.

Ronaldo would score his second of the game just at the stroke of half-time, meaning Portugal went into the break in a better position.

Yet the second half saw a reinvigorated Spain emerge from the dressing rooms. They scored twice in quick succession to retake the lead.

First Costa added to his goal tally in the 55th minute. Three minutes later, Nacho put Spain ahead and suddenly it seemed like Spain might be fine without Lopetegui after all.

The match trudged on thereafter, with Portugal seeking an equaliser while Spain looked to defend their lead. However the score would change once more; in the 88th minute, no less!

Portugal won a free-kick and Ronaldo stepped up to take it. Even the most ardent fans of the Portuguese star knew his free-kick taking prowess had waned in recent times. Yet, Ronaldo managed to turn back the clock.

His finely struck free-kick flew past David de Gea and secured Portugal a valuable point to start the campaign. Ronaldo, clearly jubilant after resucing a point, celebrated by miming a goat’s beard on his face. You put two and two together to figure out what that means.

Ronaldo’s goals saw him become only the fourth player after Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose to score in four straight World Cups. He also became the first player to score in 8 consecutive major tournaments.

The aftermath

Both Spain and Portugal qualified for the knockout rounds, finishing first and second respectively in the group. However, both wound up being eliminated in the Round of 16 itself.

Portugal took on Uruguay and were knocked out courtesy of an Edinson Cavani brace. Spain, on the other hand, were knocked out in the most exceptional circumstances.

They faced hosts Russia and the match ended 1-1 after full-time as well as extra-time. The penalty shoot-out saw all four Russians who took their spot kick score.

For Spain, meanwhile, Koke and Iago Aspas missed spot kicks – the one of Aspas particularly galling, as it went flying over the bar.

Sportslumo Desk

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