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WATCH: World Cup, Day 7 — Spain, Portugal aim for wins

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Spain and Portugal got through the toughest match on their Group B dockets, against each other, but now need to stack some W’s.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s EURO champs open Wednesday’s World Cup action with a match against Morocco, and manager Fernando Hierro leads Spain against Iran to close out the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

In the middle, Uruguay looks to suck the drama out of Group A by joining Russia as 2-0 sides.

Below is Wednesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group A
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia: Rostov, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Portugal vs. Morocco: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Spain: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Reports: Cristiano Ronaldo strikes deal on tax fraud case

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MADRID (AP) Spanish media reports that Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed to plead guilty to tax fraud and pay a fine of 18.8 million euros ($21.8 milllion) in exchange for a prison sentence that would most likely be suspended.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Iran ]

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Friday that Ronaldo is ready to admit to four counts of tax fraud that would carry a prison sentence of two years. Prison sentences not over two years in Spain are often suspended for first-time offenders.

The deal has yet to be ratified by Spain’s Tax Office, according to different Spanish media including Europa Press news agency.

Neither Spain’s Tax Office, its Ministry of Justice nor people close to Ronaldo would confirm the existence of a deal when called by The Associated Press.

Reports of the deal came hours before Ronaldo scored three goals to give Portugal a 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening match of the World Cup in Russia.

One year ago, a Spanish state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million). The prosecutor accused Ronaldo of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights. The accusation does not involve his salary from Real Madrid.

Ronaldo denied any wrongdoing when questioned by a judge last July.

In 2016, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi received a suspended 21-month jail sentence after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros (then $4.6 million).

Spain coach Hierro: Portugal “extremely fortunate” to have Ronaldo

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Spain coach Fernando Hierro says his side isn’t troubled by changing managers on the eve of the World Cup, even if things didn’t go to plan in its tournament opener.

[ RECAP: Portugal 3-3 Spain ]

“This is a mature squad, the team knows what it wants and have been playing a lot together,” Hierro said. “It is wonderful to have these mature, committed players.”

Hierro’s team twice equalized against Portugal before losing a 3-2 lead to a wonderful Cristiano Ronaldo free kick on Friday in Russia.

That draw came days after Spain, one of the tournament favorites, fired coach Julen Lopetegui for accepting the Real Madrid job without consulting them first.

Spain went down 1-0 and 2-1 to Cristiano Ronaldo goals, one a penalty kick, one bobbled by David De Gea, before the megastar scored his free kick equalizer.

“When you are playing a player like Ronaldo these things can happen. When you have a player like Ronaldo, it is extremely fortunate for whichever team has him, but I certainly would not change him for any of the players in my squad.”

Spain gets Morocco next.

Portuguese team reacts: “Above all else, an amazing Cristiano performance”

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing performance glossed over a disappointing job from Portugal’s players, at least according to the national team’s manager.

Fernando Santos said, “Spain’s players didn’t let our quality players show what they could do.”

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Portugal 3-3 Spain ]

Viewers would beg to differ, at least in the case of Ronaldo (Cheers to Portuguese soccer expert scribe Tom Kundert for the quick post-game quotes).

The Real Madrid megastar scored his first World Cup hat trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain. Ronaldo won and converted a penalty, took advantage of a rare David De Gea howler, and scored with a wonderful 88th minute free kick.

“It’s worth a lot,” Ronaldo said after the game. “It’s a great work of many years. I worked for this, but obviously it’s the team and we’re winning together. We fought to the end and the draw is fair. Spain had control of the ball but it was a great match and it was good for us.”

Portugal does need to be much better in defense by the next time it faces anyone, let alone someone of Spain’s quality.

When Diego Costa is allowed to bull his way around the field, you can’t sit down after contact like Pepe. At some point, Portugal will pay for waiting on Ronaldo.

 

Hat trick hero Ronaldo drags Portugal to draw with Spain

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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  • Spain goals: Costa (24′, 55′), Nacho (58′)
  • Portugal goals: Ronaldo (4′, 44′, 88′)
  • Next: Spain-Iran, Portugal-Morocco

Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing 88th minute free kick finished his hat trick and answered Nacho Fernandez’s magical second-half goal in a 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal on Friday.

It was a match befitting the hype as the World Cup began for both sides in Sochi, with Ronaldo’s first two goals canceled out by the same from Diego Costa.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Portugal earned a penalty inside the first three minutes when Ronaldo dragged his leg to catch Nacho Fernandez inside the 18, and the megastar’s picture perfect PK got David De Gea going the wrong way for a 1-0 lead.

A counter attack gave Portugal a prime chance for 2-0, with Bernardo Silva carving a ball around the Spanish defense and Ronaldo playing one touch for Goncalo Guedes, only to see the youngster take a superfluous touch.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Costa made it 1-1, bodying off Pepe and then cooking his mark wth a pair of cuts before belting a low shot beyond the reach of Rui Patricio.

Andres Iniesta dragged a low shot just beyond the far post, the ball crawling by the mark.

Ronaldo grabbed his second in the 44th minute, this one a howler from David De Gea.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After Costa made it 2-2, Fernandez somehow combined power and touch with an otherworldly strike to give Spain its first lead.

I mean, really man…

Few words needed for what happened next: