We followed all the action from Sochi as the European champions and 2010 World Cup winners went head-to-head in Group B.
Good evening and welcome along to The42‘s first liveblog of the 2018 World Cup, and after a couple of low-key games to start the tournament, the meeting of Portugal and Spain marks the beginning of the serious business.
We’re going minute-by-minute from Sochi for this Iberian derby, as the European champions face the 2010 World Cup winners in Group B, with so many fascinating subplots providing a piquant backdrop to this contest.
Spain’s build-up has been shrouded in controversy following the extraordinary sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui after he accepted the vacant post at Real Madrid, while Portugal haven’t really been talked about as contenders despite their victory in France two summers ago.
The action gets underway at 7pm.
Tonight’s setting is the stunning Fisht Stadium in Sochi, with both sets of supporters enjoying what the city has to offer in the hours before kick off.
Before we get onto the team news, let’s remind ourselves of what has happened in today’s early games.
There was late drama in both, as Uruguay eventually broke down Egypt to claim victory in Group A, while Iran have just recorded their first World Cup win in 20 years after an injury-time own goal by Morocco substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz.
Today’s World Cup results:
TEAM NEWS: Fernando Hierro has named his first XI as Spain head coach, and there are no real surprises with plenty of familiar faces in his side.
Manchester United’s David de Gea is behind a four-man defence of Alba, Ramos, Pique and Nacho while Busquets, Koke and Iniesta are in midfield with Silva and Isco slotting in behind striker Diego Costa.
As for Portugal, Fernando Santos has included Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva support Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonçalo Guedes in his side.
Which way do you see this one going?
Let’s take a closer look at the teams, starting with Spain.
Diego Costa starts in attack and Nacho at right-back in new Fernando Hierro’s starting line-up.
The team is that which would likely have started under Julen Lopetegui, had he not been sensationally sacked on Wednesday following the announcement that he would be joining Real Madrid after the tournament.
Madrid utility man Nacho is preferred to Alvaro Odriozola at right-back, with Dani Carvajal still not deemed fully fit after suffering an injury playing for Real in last month’s Champions League final.
Bruising Atletico Madrid striker Costa will lead the line, as Hierro takes charge of Spain for the first time, just 48 hours after his shock appointment.
And this is how Portugal will line-up, who are captained by Cristiano Ronaldo against three of his Real Madrid team-mates.
Goncalo Guedes has been given the nod ahead of Andre Silva of AC Milan up top with Ronaldo, while former West Ham defender Jose Fonte partners Pepe in the geart of the Portugal defence.
The teams are in the tunnel and have received a big welcome from a large crowd inside the Olympic Stadium in Sochi. We’ll have the anthems and then we’re ready for kick off!
KICK OFF! Spain, playing in their changed kit of all white, get us underway.
2 mins – Portugal enjoying the early possession as Cristiano Ronaldo’s first touch gets a big cheer. It’s a perfect evening for football in Sochi, with temperatures in or around 24 degrees.
3 mins — Penalty! What a start this is for Portugal as Ronaldo finds space between the lines and as he runs at the Spanish defence, is fouled by Nacho and the referee has no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
4 mins — GOAL! Portugal 1-0 Spain (Ronaldo)
And he makes no mistake, sending David de Gea the wrong way to put Portugal into an early lead. Well, well, well…
7 mins – A dream start for Ronaldo and Portugal but after the turmoil of the past 48 hours, it’s an absolute nightmare for Spain. It was definitely a penalty and Ronaldo was never going to miss from the spot. We’ve got a game on now.
9 mins – Spain have responded well and are enjoying plenty of possession, with David Silva snatching at a half chance after Costa had teed up the Manchester City midfielder just inside the edge of the area. Replays show Silva just lost his footing as he struck the ball, with his effort flying high and wide.
12 mins – Spain are beginning to settle into the game now and are finding their passing rhythm, with the 2010 winners seeing plenty of the ball and Portugal happy to sit deep in their rigid defensive structure.
He enjoyed that.
20 mins – Not a whole lot to report in the last few minutes. Iniesta is conducting the Spanish the orchestra, and the white shirts are certainly moving the ball quicker and with more purpose, but Portugal have been comfortable defensively so far.
At the other end, Portugal are having a bit of joy down the left and every time Ronaldo gets on the ball, it feels like something is going to happen — mind you, that may just be because the decibel levels increase considerably when he is involved.
23 mins – This game between two heavyweights is coming to life. David Silva has a half-chance at one end but is denied by a last-ditch block and then Portugal break with pace and power, with Ronaldo squaring it inside for Gonçalo Guedes, but he spurns the opportunity by dithering on the ball.
24 mins — GOAL! Portugal 1-1 Spain (Diego Costa)
Spain are level! Brilliant piece of play from Costa as he holds off Pepe and then bullies another couple of Portugal defenders to create the space for himself, before firing low into the corner past Rui Patricio.
The referee is referring it to the lads in the VAR box, but there’s nothing untoward in the build-up. Cracking goal.
27 mins — Off the bar! Spain come within inches of snatching the lead as Isco cuts in off this wing to unleash a fierce drive, which cannons off the under side of the crossbar and onto the line — but it doesn’t go in! Some drama in Sochi.
29 mins – It’s all happening now, and what a cracking game this is! Bruno Fernandes goes into the book for a nasty challenge on Nacho, before Silva’s free hits the wall.
35 mins – Spain are playing some glorious stuff now and are causing havoc in the Portugal defence, with 34-year-old Iniesta pulling the strings. Portugal are chasing shadows and Ronaldo is getting frustrated.
Power, pace and a brilliant finish.
37 mins – Spain are getting real joy down the left with Alba bombing forward at every opportunity to support Isco who is causing no end of problems. They’ve dominated since the third minute and you feel a second Spanish goal is coming.
42 mins – Spain are an absolute joy to watch. They move through the gears seamlessly and are so difficult to live with when in full flow, as the Portugal defence has found out on several occasions already.
Portugal, by the way, have seen very little of the ball and Ronaldo is becoming increasingly isolated up top. Three minutes to go until the break.
GOAL! Portugal 2-1 Spain (Ronaldo)
Oh no, David de Gea! Ronaldo gets on the ball outside the area and tries his luck from range, but his low effort is straight at the ‘keeper — only for de Gea to make an absolute howler. Against the run of play, Portugal lead again!
45 mins – Well, that came out of absolutely nothing. Spain had created all the chances and looked most likely to take the lead before the break, only for that man Ronaldo to pop up and throw another cat amongst the pigeons.
David de Gea mistakes are like collector’s items but, boy, that was bad.
HALF-TIME! Portugal 2-1 Spain
An incredible 45 minutes of football in Sochi. Ronaldo gave Portugal an early lead but Spain responded with a masterclass in attacking football, eventually drawing level through Diego Costa.
Spain dominated possession and created a number of chances, but David de Gea’s howler on the stroke of half-time gifted Ronaldo and Portugal a second.
This one is living up to the billing, anyway.
What a cracking photo.
45 mins — We’re back underway in Sochi. What on earth will happen in the next 45 minutes?
51 mins – Cesc Fabregas is spending the tournament on BBC as a pundit and at the break he admitted it was the worst time for Spain to concede after being on top for so long. They’ve responded well again and are doing all the early running in this second period.
54 mins — GOAL! Portugal 2-2 Spain (Costa)
A tale of two centre forwards. The free-kick is swung in, Busquets heads it back across goal and Costa is there to slide in and level proceedings for the second time.
57 mins — GOAL! Portugal 2-3 Spain (Nacho)
What a strike, what a goal, what a game! The ball falls to Nacho on the edge of the area and he strikes it as sweet as you like, and it goes in off both posts. Spain lead for the first time!
60 mins – An incredible start to this second half as Spain turn the game on its head with a quickfire double. My word what a strike that was from Nacho and who knows what’s in store in the final 30 minutes in Sochi.
66 mins – What do Portugal have in terms of a response? Well they won’t find a way back into the game if they can’t get on the ball and they’re struggling to at the minute as Spain continue to knock it around.
70 mins — Portugal have made a double change with Joao Mario on for Bernardo Fernandes and Quaresma (yes, him) replacing Bernardo. 20 minutes remaining.
71 mins – Huge ovation for Iniesta, who has been superb all evening, as he makes way for Thiago.
72 mins – To their credit, Portugal are working hard to hustle and harry Spain when they’re in possession but they continue to concede cheap free kicks and that suits the 2010 winners just fine as they maintain their grip on this contest.
78 mins – Diego Costa won’t get his hat-trick tonight as he’s coming off for Iago Aspas, and the Atletico striker doesn’t look best pleased about it. But what a shift he’s put in for his side.
80 mins – Last throw of the dice from Fernando Santos, as he makes his final change. Andre Silva replaces Guedes and time is running out for Portugal. They’re huffing and puffing but not a lot is happening.
84 mins — Chance! Aspas finds a yard of space on the edge of the box but his effort is straight at Patricio. Six minutes remaining.
85 mins – Spain are experts at taking the sting out of the game and David Silva is slowing making is way off to be replaced by Lucas Vazquez.
88 mins — GOAL! Portugal 3-3 Spain (Ronaldo)
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! Ronaldo produces a moment of magic after being fouled by Pique on the edge of the area. He equalises with a STUNNING free-kick to complete his hat-trick and draw Portugal level.
90 mins – What an unbelievable moment, what a genius!
90 mins – Four minutes of injury time in Sochi.
90 + 1 mins — Chance! Quaresma very nearly snatches it for Portugal as he cuts inside onto his right foot but just as he looks to finish, a white shirt comes across and makes a last-ditch intervention. Ronaldo then has a header which flies wide.
Full-time! Portugal 3-3 Spain
Football, bloody hell. A truly incredible game from start to finish as it ebbed and flowed, swung one way and then the other and at the end of it Portugal and Spain share the spoils in Sochi.
Cristiano Ronaldo will make the headlines thanks to a stunning late free-kick which completed his hat-trick and grabbed a point for Portugal.
The 2018 World Cup has well and truly started!
We’re off to catch our breath but we’ll have plenty of reaction to come throughout the evening. Thanks for joining us and until next time, goodbye!