Spain showed real character during what was easily the most entertaining game of the tournament so far, and would really have won if not for some mistakes in defence and a superhuman performance from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Both teams should really now go through from Group B.
After losing their coach three days before this World Cup opener, Spain were hit by two body blows here: Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth-minute penalty and 44th-minute long-range shot. But they showed a lot of character to come back first through Diego Costa’s double, with neither goal having anything to do with their usual possession-based approach.
Nacho’s long-range effort was unexpected but when a team’s stand-in right back can hit them like that, it suggests the squad is not short on quality.
Things did not look so rosy for Spain at various times through the first hour of the game, with the defence looking particularly rocky whenever Portugal counter attacked.
David De Gea’s rocky form at the international level continued, and Ronaldo’s late equaliser means they could win their remaining two games and still not go through as group winners.
Manager rating, out of 10
6 — Replacing Julen Lopetegui as coach during this week’s drama inside the Spain camp, Fernando Hierro said he would “touch as little as possible” and the XI and team set-up were the same Lopetegui was expected to choose.
Hierro was a noisy presence on the sideline and deserves credit for not panicking at half-time, trusting his players to dig themselves out of the hole they found themselves in. Taking off Diego Costa and David Silva late on was understandable, but did invite more pressure from Portugal.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 4 — De Gea let Ronaldo’s 20-yard effort right through him for Portugal’s second goal just before half-time, his latest mistake in a Spain shirt. He also looked shaky when rushing from goal when it wasn’t needed after half-time but could do nothing about the late free kick. Made zero saves all game.
DF Nacho Fernandez, 7 — Tricked by club teammate Ronaldo for Portugal’s early penalty and looked uncomfortable at right-back, just until he caught a bouncing ball perfectly on the edge of the Portugal area and pinged home via the post for 3-2. That goal swiftly restored his confidence.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 — Struggled to stop Ronaldo being a huge influence on the game in the first half, and then gave away the free kick 20 yards out from which the reigning Ballon D’Or made it 3-3 late on. Not his best game but then again, anybody would have struggled against Ronaldo on Friday night.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 — Kept Goncalo Guedes mostly quiet through the 90 minutes although formed part of a defence that looked vulnerable to quick breaking opponents, especially when the full-backs pushed up.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 — Regularly got forward and was often involved in dangerous Spain moves down their left, a performance very reminiscent of his Barcelona role to provide the team’s main width in attack. Helped force the ricochet that led to his side’s third goal.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 — Caught in possession near his own box and had to take a yellow card while Spain were struggling early. Redeemed himself completely with assists for both Costa goals: the first a pretty aimless hoof forward, the second a header back across goal at a set piece.
MF Koke 6, — Not the most involved of Spain’s players, especially when the team was under pressure in the first half. Then grew into the game and was very tidy on the ball. Also made a vital block to deny Portugal an unlikely winner in injury time.
MF David Silva, 6 — The quietest of Spain’s creative midfielders was not as influential as he can be. Replaced by Lucas Vazquez when Spain were 3-2 up.
MF Isco, 7 — Rattled the crossbar with a 20-yard shot and also forced a save from Rui Patricio during a bright first-half performance, linking really well with Alba and Iniesta down Spain’s left. Showed his usual skill on the ball, drawing useful fouls from bedazzled markers.
MF Andres Iniesta, 8 — A real leader’s performance from the veteran, especially by getting on the ball when Spain were rocking having gone behind early and pulling them back into the game. Missed two half-chances in front of goal but remains a vital part of the team even if not capable of full intensity over 90 minutes anymore.
FW Diego Costa, 9 — Answered the question of who is Spain’s best No. 9 for the tournament. His first equaliser was a typical barnstorming run, including some characteristic “physicality” to get old sparring partner Pepe out of the way. His second was a real poacher’s effort, showing excellent anticipation and desire to get to the ball first.
MF Thiago, 6 — Looked sharp during a 20-minute run as Iniesta’s backup, a role he is likely to continue to fill through the tournament.
FW Iago Aspas, 6 — One half-chance during a late run in place of Costa, which was hit straight at Portugal keeper Rui Patricio.
MF Lucas Vazquez, NR — Came on at the very end to little effect.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan