Cristiano’s best performance with Portugal

Let’s keep it simple: Cristiano Ronaldo has had some special days with Portugal – July 10th 2016, for example – but this was his best performance for the country. In the most important tournament, against one of the best teams in the world.

Cristiano needed only one game in Russia to score as many goals he had scored in three previous World Cups, and became the oldest player to score a hat-trick at the tournament. He has now scored in four World Cups, something only Uwe Seeler, Pelé and Miroslav Klose can also say.

But there’s more: he now has 84 goals for Portugal and equalled Ferenc Puskas in 2nd place of national teams’ all-time goalscorers, only behind Iran’s former star Ali Daei (109 goals). Tremendous!

Spain didn’t appear to be affected by Julen Lopetegui’s dismissal only 48 hours before the game, and played like always (or like they have for most of the last decade, at least). But Diego Costa’s best night with La Roja was spoiled by the Portuguese captain, and Fernando Hierro couldn’t celebrate his first win as Spanish coach.

The game was more open and lively than expected, but none of the goalkeepers had much work to do (besides picking the ball from the back of the net three times), although David de Gea made an error that gave Portugal the second goal. The other two Cristiano goals came from set pieces: a penalty with only four minutes played, and the amazing free kick that settled the draw at 88’.

But Portugal also conceded from a set piece, after an indirect free kick in which Guedes could have done better to stop Busquets heading the ball to Costa. That gave him negative points on defensive board.

And besides this stumble, the young forward who Paris Saint-Germain loaned to Valencia last season also made a very discreet performance offensively, even with one assist to Cristiano.

The same applies to Bruno Fernandes, who gained more points from defensive tasks than offensive. Only the goalkeepers and the subs are below them on the leaderboard.

These two players made very good performances in the last preparation game, against Algeria, and convinced Fernando Santos to change the team that came from qualification, but João Mario and André Silva could have their places back against Morocco, next Wednesday. Even more so because it is expected that Portugal have more ball, so it will be important to have the serenity of the midfielder who played for West Ham last season, and a forward with greater presence in the area.

Against Spain it was all about Cristiano, and that’s why the second Portuguese player in the leaderboard comes only in 10th position (Cédric). Many times it was unfair to see Ronaldo as the solo hero, but this draw was conquered by him, on another memorable night.

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