Adler, Russia: Set all the future videos, the YouTube clips and even the stray GIFs of the match that breathed here on Friday to whatever pieces of classical music might lurk around the house. Even the glorious dorks who make their own soccer videos because they simply cannot function otherwise need to locate some kind of soaring accompaniment. Keep in mind copyright considerations.
With the roars from 43,866 in coastal Fisht Stadium probably audible to vessels out on the Black Sea, Spain and Portugal collaborated contrarily until their crackling 3-3 draw, the fourth match out of 64 that will constitute the World Cup, galloped into the early lead as the best and will be damned-near insuperable from here.
The match reminded those with the good fortune to watch it that Spain seems to have refurbished the violin section that made them peerless around the turn of last decade, seeming to have rediscovered their effective beauty. Spain spent much of the match surmounting nuisances of varying ludicrousness yet still seemed primed to win as the referee took an eon settling the wall of players before Cristiano Ronaldo’s late free kick.
Then it reminded us that of all the best conductors in sports, of all the Peles and Maradonas and Jordans and Jameses and Tendulkars and Bradys and Montanas, Ronaldo might just be the ultimate peacock, with his comprehensive vanity fuelling an inability to surrender that would match any such inability on earth. When he faced that wall in the 88th minute and sent a ball with a life of its own around the right edge of the people and the thing travelled upward until it made its planned curl down into the top right side of the net, yards and yet miles from a frozen goalkeeper, well, at very least ...
At very least a string quartet should have played nearby.
With that latest and last roar, blaring while Ronaldo ran madly and giddily in a leftward loop, the whole occasion had proved so powerful that you could forget for long swathes that Spain had fired their manager less than two days before the tournament and that their new manager had held the helm for about five minutes. At moments when that thought did recur, it seemed that perhaps every team in every sport, when it approaches an humongous event, ought to consider firing its coach or manager.
‘‘We feel very proud of the players after the adversity of the match itself,’’ said the nascent manager, Fernando Hierro, who soon added of his veteran-rich bunch: ‘‘This is a mature squad. It harbours no doubts. It knows what it wants.’’
Spain absolutely knows how to overcome, four years after it descended to a dud in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, opening with a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands that made it look elderly and following that with a 2-0 loss to Chile that booked it back across the Atlantic. On this memorable Friday night, the Spaniards overcame a calamity just 130 seconds into Hierro’s tenure, when Ronaldo tried to step by Nacho near the top left corner of the box and the defender’s left calf grazed Ronaldo’s right foot, spilling the 33-year-old global superstar from Madeira and wreaking a penalty.
Ronaldo shoved that into the top right of the goal while goalkeeper David De Gea guessed the other way, and Ronaldo already had become the fourth player in the 21 World Cups to post goals in four different ones, while Spain already had trouble. They would have more in the 44th minute when Portugal took a 2-1 lead via a candidate for the gaffe hall of fame, when Ronaldo’s left-footed attempt from the top of the box one-hopped its way to De Gea, then careened off De Gea’s left hand towards the back left corner of the net.
Those two goals alone might discourage many, but Spain carefully assembled their recoveries. Both nostalgically and promisingly, they hogged 67 per cent of possession. Yet their two reply goals owed nothing to any lovely tap-tap. In the 24th minute, Sergio Busquets’ long ball found Brazil-born he-man Diego Costa alone down there without any of his mates, and by the time he had shoved Pepe on the shoulder and danced amid two defenders from the questioned Portuguese defence, he looked cartoonish, as if seven men might not stop him. His eventual shot skittered through the two and through the legs of Portugal defender Cedric and into the back left corner of the net.
After De Gea’s blunder caused pity and scorn around the world and later a hug from Hierro, a former Spain mainstay as a player, and after they all went to half-time, Spain’s offence really got pretty, even off a free kick. David Silva took that in the 55th minute, and it travelled down right of the goal to Busquets, who headed a stunning cross that a charging Costa crammed in. Only three minutes passed before Andres Iniesta and his teammates made some beauty near the left edge of the box. The threat looked cleared until Nacho appeared outside the top right corner of the box.
He redirected it back the other way and off the left post, then it pinballed over way right until it came to rest with the score 3-2.
From there Spain played some of the world’s highest-level keep-away. ‘‘We played a favourite for the World Cup,’’ Ronaldo said afterwards, soon adding, ‘‘We are not the favourites, but we’re candidates.’’
With the two moving on to play Morocco and Iran and both figuring to turn up in the knockout stage, the minutes waned with Spain having advantage but Portugal having Ronaldo. The star who had never scored against Spain made a few bids at a third goal until those minutes started to look like filler, enough that viewers might have forgotten that Ronaldo has what Portugal manager Fernando Santos called ‘‘incredible mental endurance.’’ Then Gerard Pique fouled Ronaldo 25 yards from the goal, and a stadium waited to see whether anything would come of that. And the Friday night symphony simply would not stop playing.