UEFA Nations League: Portugal are the champions after a tepid Dutch affair
Portugal adds another piece of silverware to a once barren trophy cabinet after a victory over the Netherlands in an uninspiring UEFA Nations League Final.
When UEFA announced their intention to create a Nations League, there was a sceptic for every person suffering a rifle butt to the head searching for antiseptic.
Today, even the most calloused of sceptics have to admit that for once, UEFA, got it right. Mindless European friendlies have gone the way of Paul Scholes’ asthma pump, replaced by some of the most refreshing international football we have seen in years.
It’s a shame the final wasn’t handcuffed to that same pizzazz.
The Netherlands controlled the football in their Semi-Final win over England but rarely threatened. If it weren’t for John Stones kamikaze performance, England would have no doubt beaten them on penalties, because everyone beats the Netherlands on penalties, even a team as useless at taking penalties as England.
But Stones did his thing, The Netherlands made the final, and with it went any chance of the millions of people tuning in, globally, enjoying a decent game of footie. The Netherlands controlled possession once again but didn’t muster a shot/header on goal until Rui Patricio saved a Memphis Depay header in the 65th minute.
Portugal, on the other hand, always looked dangerous on the break with Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo capable of dribbling through everyone, twice, before scoring, and it was Silva who was instrumental in the creation of the winning goal.
With the clock striking the 60-minute mark, the impressive Gonçalo Guedes nutmegged a Dutch defender before sending Silva into the penalty area. Guedes didn’t stop running, making his way to the edge of the penalty box, Silva found him with a cute cutback, and Guedes smashed the ball towards the Dutch goal, and Jasper Cillessen’s outstretched hand was too weak to stop it.
There’s nothing else to add.
For the remaining 30-minutes, the Netherlands probed without finding a way through a resolute defensive lineup that started with the centre forward.
Portugal 1 v 0 The Netherlands
It’s the first time that a European nation has won a tournament on home soil since France won the 1998 World Cup, and it’s Portugal’s second trophy in three years since winning nothing but a grain of sand since 1921.
The Dutch, in contrast, have now lost four of their last five finals, but Ronald Koeman and the Dutch fans will be happy with progress after failing to qualify for the last two major finals.
England finish third
England finished third after beating Switzerland on penalties after neither side could find the breakthrough after 120-minutes. Gareth Southgate dropped John Stones, and welcome Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez into the fold, and both had excellent games.
The star was Jordan Pickford who saved Josip Drmic’s penalty before stepping up to score the winner after Harry Maguire, Ross Barkley, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, and Eric Dier had all found the net. It’s the second win on penalties for England after losing their previous six.
England 0 v 0 Switzerland (England win 6-5 on pens)
Portugal wins €10.5m for winning the event, €9m goes to the Netherlands, €8m for England and €7m for Switzerland. All four teams will also compete in the 2020 European Championships Play-Offs if they fail to qualify via the traditional route.
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