Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Spain's tumultuous week ends with 3-3 draw against Portugal

Published:Saturday | June 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Spain’s Diego Costa (right) celebrates his side’s equalising goal during the Group B match between Portugal and Spain at the 2018 World Cup at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, yesterday.

SOCHI, Russia (AP):

Spain were on the cusp of a perfect ending following days of turmoil, minutes from a spectacular triumph over Iberian rivals Portugal to start their World Cup.

But Fernando Hierro, the former Spain defender who only took over as coach two days earlier, had to settle for a draw because Cristiano Ronaldo made sure the 2010 World Cup champions would only get one point following a 3-3 draw yesterday in Group B.

Spain controlled possession and played well enough to win but failed to stop Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward turned the match into a personal showcase at the expense of the Spanish team and goalkeeper David de Gea.




It was De Gea's gaffe late in the first half on Ronaldo's shot from the top of the penalty area that gave Portugal a 2-1 halftime lead. De Gea was left frozen watching Ronaldo's free kick in the closing minutes dip under the crossbar to cap his hat-trick and ensure the draw.

Still, after the coaching chaos of the week, Hierro was willing to accept the draw.

"We feel very proud of the players after the adversity of the match itself. We came back and equalised twice, so we feel great commitment, pride," Hierro said. "This is a mature squad. The team knows what it wants. It has been playing together for two years, and they know what they want. That style, that personality, it's a question of personality, character, and pride."

Hierro never expected to be in the position of leading Spain in the World Cup, but his services were called upon only two days before the match when the Spanish federation fired Julen Lopetegui after he accepted a position with Real Madrid. Lopetegui was to take over at the Bernabeu after the World Cup, only to get sent home before the tournament even started.

Hierro had so little time to get settled, he kept the same game plan Lopetegui had in place for the opener.