On this day in 2018, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo produced one of the all-time great World Cup performances in a memorable six-goal thriller against Spain.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has scored more hat-tricks  than any other player in the 21st century, netted three times in Sochi as the 2016 European Championship winners earned a point in their opening Group B clash.
Ronaldo began the night by converting a penalty in the fourth minute after Nacho fouled him in the box.
Spain equalised through a wonderful solo effort from Diego Costa but to the delight of manager Fernando Santos, that man Ronaldo soon made it 2-1 after a red-faced David de Gea fumbled his powerful effort from range.
Costa, who played for Atletico Madrid at the time, then equalised again to make it 2-2 before Nacho redeemed himself for conceding the first-half penalty by drilling a volley from the edge of the area.
It appeared Spain were set to get their campaign, one that started in disarray as coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup after agreeing to take charge of Real Madrid, off to a positive start for stand-in boss Fernando Hierro.
But Portugal’s superstar forward had other ideas. Not to be outdone by Nacho’s sizzling strike, Ronaldo – as he often does on the big stage – stepped up to the plate with a trademark swerving free-kick in the 88th minute.
Portugal would go on to earn a point in the Iberian derby but it was Ronaldo’s performance that grabbed the headlines.
“When there’s someone like Ronaldo out there, these things can happen,” Hierro, who did not expect to be on the touchline, reflected.
In fact, the former Manchester United winger, who also became the first player to score in eight consecutive major tournaments that night, was later praised for his humble post-match interview.
“Above all we have to stress the efforts of the team,” he said.
“We showed that we will always fight to the end. Spain dominated possession, they’re one of the best sides in the world, but we believed until the end.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous hat-trick against Spain posted to YouTube by FIFA has garnered nearly 84 million views, making it the most popular FIFATV video ever and one of the most popular Youtube videos of all time. pic.twitter.com/AiBsKqnfSJ
— TeamCRonaldo. (@TeamCRonaldo) March 8, 2021
15th June, 2018.
The day Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick vs Spain at the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/slI8bhijHW
— The CR7 Timeline. (@TimelineCR7) May 12, 2021
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Featured Image Credit: PA