Wednesday 19 September 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo confident of Portugal progress after hat-trick against Spain

Ronaldo became oldest player to score a World Cup hat-trick.

Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion (Adam Davy/Empics)
Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion (Adam Davy/Empics)

By Press Association Sport staff

Cristiano Ronaldo is confident Portugal will progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup after his hat-trick stunned Spain in an astonishing 3-3 draw in Sochi.

Ronaldo – at 33 years and 130 days – became the oldest player to score a World Cup hat-trick, twice putting Portugal ahead before his 88th-minute free-kick secured a precious point.

It was the 51st treble of Ronaldo’s goal-filled career as he became the fourth player to score in four different World Cup and the first to do so at eight consecutive international tournaments.

“We have to look to the next match now because our goal is to win,” Ronaldo said.

“We have to take it match by match and move on through the group stage.

“We are not the favourites but we will do our best and try to beat Morocco on Wednesday.

“I think the team played very well and is going to do well for sure.”

Ronaldo’s records might stack up like his goals, but he was determined to focus on the team ethos of the reigning European champions.

Spain dominated for large periods – Diego Costa twice equalised and Nacho putting them ahead with a superb strike – but Portugal rallied in the final moments for Ronaldo to level.

“I am very happy, and I always believe in myself,” the Real Madrid forward added in quotes reported on fpf.pt.

“It is one more (hat-trick) in my career but the most important thing to me is to highlight what the teams has done.

“We played against a favourite team that wants to win the World Cup and we were winning twice during the game.

“We almost made those three points and we managed to draw. We are very happy because this game was about to end and we managed to equalise.

“We have to evaluate what the team did because it was a very hard-fought game.”

Portugal and Spain are both currently playing catch-up in Group B as Iran shocked Morocco 1-0 earlier in the day to top the section.

Ronaldo’s second goal on the stroke of half-time was down to a dreadful error from David de Gea, considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world.

The Manchester United star allowed Ronaldo’s straightforward shot to slip through his grasp and into the net.

But stand-in Spain coach Fernando Hierro – who replaced the sacked Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday – gave a massive vote of confidence to De Gea after the game.

“We don’t have any doubts about De Gea and he doesn’t have any doubts about himself either,” Hierro said.

“I gave him a long embrace, we know that being a goalkeeper requires special psychology and is a difficult position to play in.

“He has had lots of good days. We are a family, we are a team, and we stick together.”

On being thrown into the deep end when Lopetegui was sacked for accepting the Real Madrid job just weeks after signing a new contract as Spain manager until 2020, Hierro said: “There was a plan for us in the opening match and we have stuck to that.

“But we have adapted very well because this situation was not easy.

“But when you have the staff and these excellent young professionals it makes your life a lot easier.

“I hope this squad will continue to show that motivation and strength as we progress.”

Press Association

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