Sochi, Russia — Cristiano Ronaldo used the World Cup to show everyone he’s the GOAT.
Ronaldo rubbed his chin after scoring minutes into Portugal’s opener against Spain, implying he is the Greatest of All Time. Then he scored two more goals, including a perfectly placed 88th-minute free kick that gave his team a 3-3 draw Friday.
Spain, the 2010 World Cup champion, dominated much of the match but was unable to contain Ronaldo.
“When I play against a player like Ronaldo, these things can happen,” newly appointed Spain coach Fernando Hierro said. “It’s very fortunate for whatever team has Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Ronaldo had twice given European champion Portugal the lead with first-half goals at Fisht Stadium, but Diego Costa equalized with a goal in each half. Nacho Fernandez then put the Spanish ahead with a one-timer from outside the area in the Group B match.
Ronaldo became the fourth player to score in four World Cups, joining Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler. He also became the first Portuguese player to appear in four World Cups, and at 33 became the oldest player to score a hat trick in tournament history.
He used his first goal to send a message to the world in an apparent reaction to Adidas’ “GOAT” promotion with Lionel Messi, featuring the Argentine with a real goat. Ronaldo and Messi have split the last 10 player of the year awards.
“I’ve said it so many times, Cristiano is the best in the world,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.
Ronaldo downplayed his sixth international hat trick.
“To me, the most important (thing) is to highlight what the team has done,” Ronaldo said.
Spain looked to have successfully overcome its dramatic coaching change one the eve of the tournament but Ronaldo curled a late shot from about 25 meters (yards) over the wall. The ball went into the top corner as Spain goalkeeper David de Gea watched.
The Spanish federation fired coach Julen Lopetegui for accepting a job with Real Madrid without letting it know in advance. Hierro, a former player acting as Spain’s sporting director, replaced Lopetegui and was on the bench despite no significant previous coaching experience.
“It wasn’t an easy situation. When you have this staff and these young players, they make it much easier,” Hierro said.
It was an exciting start to one of the group-stage’s most anticipated matches and it didn’t take long before Ronaldo struck first.
Ronaldo made a nice stepover move to get past Fernandez, his Real Madrid teammate, and was fouled at the edge of the area. He then calmly sent his shot to the right corner as De Gea went the other way.
As Ronaldo returned to midfield for the restart, he and Fernandez appeared to exchange words, and the Portuguese star smiled.
“It’s always great to have somebody wonderful playing like that,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “I’m glad he’s Portuguese.”
Portugal threatened on counterattacks as Spain struggled to get near Rui Patricio’s goal, but a great long pass by Sergio Busquets allowed Costa to even the match. The striker collided with Pepe and used several neat moves to clear other defenders before firing a low shot into the corner from inside the area.
Portugal loudly complained Costa had fouled Pepe, and replays showed there was contact by the Spaniard’s arm with Pepe’s body. Referee Gianluca Rocchi allowed the play to continue.
Portugal wanted the play to be reviewed, and Rocchi at one point put a hand to his ear, apparently indicating the assistant referees didn’t see a clear error.
Goal-line technology came into play a few moments later when a Francisco “Isco” Alarcon’s shot struck the crossbar and dropped straight down on the goal line. After Isco complained, Rocchi pointed to his watch, which receives goal confirmations.
Ronaldo’s second goal came after a blunder by De Gea, who let the ball bounce off his hands and into the net after a routine shot from outside the area just before halftime.
Busquets and Costa combined for Spain’s equalizer in the 55th. After a cross by Andres Iniesta, Busquets headed the ball back across the area and Costa touched it into the open net.
Three minutes later, Fernandez redeemed himself for the penalty on Ronaldo with a streaking shot after a ball cleared by the defense got deflected toward him. The ball struck the post before going into the goal.
More Group B
Iran 1, Morocco 0: An own-goal in the fifth minute of injury time gifted Iran a victory over Morocco in a Group B match at St. Petersburg, Russia.
Only on the field as a 77th-minute substitute, Morocco striker Aziz Bouhaddouz dived to reach a curling cross from the left but headed the ball past his own goalkeeper.
While Bouhaddouz buried his face in the turf and was consoled by some teammates, there was an explosion of joy among the Iran squad as coaching staff and substitutes sprinted onto the field and jumped for joy.
It was Iran’s second win in 13 matches at the World Cup, and Asia’s first since the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
With Spain and Portugal the other teams in Group B, the match in St. Petersburg was regarded as a must-win game for the two outsiders.
Uruguay 1, Egypt 0: Uruguay captain Diego Godin and teammate Jose Gimenez, who anchor the back line at Atletico Madrid as well as the national team’s traditionally solid defense, did their job in front of their own goalkeeper and then combined for the winning strike in the 89th minute in Sochi.
Godin, who was making his 117th international appearance, sent a free kick from the right into the area. Gimenez jumped and got his head to the ball, directing it into the net and giving Uruguay its first opening-match victory at the World Cup in 48 years.
“Sometimes the ball will go to the back of the net, sometimes it won’t,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. “I’m very proud of the team and the attitude they played with throughout the match.”
Uruguay now has three points in Group A, but still trails Russia on goal difference after the host nation’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Egypt forward Mohamed Salah was on the bench for his country’s first World Cup match since 1990 after injuring his shoulder while playing for Liverpool in last month’s Champions League final.
World Cup schedule
France vs. Australia, 6 a.m. (FS1)
Argentina vs. Iceland, 9 a.m. (FOX)
Peru vs. Denmark, noon (FS1)
Croatia vs. Nigeria, 3 p.m. (FS1)
Costa Rica vs. Serbia, 8 a.m. (FOX)
Germany vs. Mexico, 11 a.m. (FS1)
Brazil vs. Switzerland, 4 p.m. (FS1)