Group stage clashes between two powerhouse teams expected to go far can often lead to dull affairs. Both sides content to play out a cagey encounter as they feel their way into the tournament and perhaps meet each other further down the road.
On this night however, it was left to Spain and Portugal to play out a six-goal thriller in Sochi.
You could be forgiven if you forgot that there was still a game of football to be played with all the hoopla surrounding 2010 World Cup winners was about their decision to sack Julen Lopetegui and replace him with Fernando Hierro on the eve of the tournament.
Regardless of who’s side you are on in the fight between club and country, the Spanish Football Federation made their stance clear; that they would be bullied by Spain’s two biggest clubs no longer.
On the field, Portugal rescued a deserved draw and helped bring the World Cup to life in a pulsating 3-3 stalemate inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
Cristiano Ronaldo, always one to leave his mark on any football match, was at his ruthless best, scoring a hattrick. Meanwhile, for Spain, Diego Costa was also at his optimum, bagging a brace, and Nacho added a thunderous third while Isco sprinkled the occasion with stardust.
Ronaldo began proceedings with a third minute penalty after he took a tumble following a Nacho challenge.
Diego Costa equalised with a remarkable show of strength and determination. Sergio Busquets sent a long ball into his path, Costa won an aerial battle with Pepe before bearing down on goal and shimmying past Jose Fonte and Raphael Guerreiro. He then let loose with a low drive into the bottom corner, beating Rui Patricio.
Isco was a wristband buzz away from giving his country the lead after sending a crashing drive off the crossbar and bouncing on the line. The Real Madrid midfielder protested only to be told by referee Gianluca Rocchi the ball did not cross the line, gesturing to his watch.
Spain’s playmaker was menacing in the first half effortlessly drifting between Portugal’s midfield and defence and playing smart passes to open opportunities for himself and his teammates.
On stroke of half time the Real Madrid forward nudged the European Champions ahead once more when his rather tame shot squirmed past David De Gea in the Spanish goal. For a goalkeeper in the conversation as being the best in the world the moment was one more befitting of his first season with Manchester United than the unstoppable force he has since become.
Shortly after half time the game jolted back into life and Costa brought Spain level once more. A goal that is not usually in the playbook of La Roja, David Silva and Isco wonderfully executed a free-kick and clipped a smart ball to the back post. Serigo Busquets headed the ball back across goal for the former Chelsea striker to bundle into the back of the net and even the game at two apiece.
Just before the hour Nacho made amends for his error which gave Portugal the penalty. Once more it was the intricate play of Isco and David Silva. The cross came to nothing and a seemingly innocuous clearance came bouncing towards the Real Madrid defender who send a right-footed rocket from 22 yards crashing into the post before nestling into the bottom corner.
In a clash featuring some of the best strikers of a ball in the world it was a hit that any of those would have been proud of.
While chances have been at a premium in the early games of the World Cup there were no such problems in this contest. Andreas Iniesta flashed an effort agonisingly wide, which was not befitting of the majestic build up play which led to the chance.
Costa could have had his hattrick with 20 minutes left but scuffed his shot wide of the target.
The night was drawing to an exhausting close but there was still time for Ronaldo to have the final say on the game, like he has done with so many before. Brought down 25 yards away from the goal the five-time Ballon d’Or winner pulled his shorts up to reveal the powerful legs tasked with the responsibility of earning a well-deserved point.
A vintage run up followed before he delicately curled the ball into De Gea’s net. The Spanish shot stopper did not even attempt to save the effort and the Portugal captain wheeled away knowing he had the final word yet again.