Nations League Final, Estádio do Dragão – Portugal 1 (Guedes 60) Netherlands 0
Goncalo Guedes scored a stunning second-half winner as Portugal made history by claiming the inaugural UEFA Nations League, deservedly beating the Netherlands in Porto.
An expectant crowd, dominated by home fans at the Estádio do Dragão, saw the hosts create the better chances in the match, with Guedes scoring the winner courtesy of a tidy finish with an hour gone.
It was the reigning European champions Portugal who asked all of the questions in the first-period but despite registering 11 shots – and the Dutch just one – the hosts were unable to break the deadlock, Bruno Fernandes going closest.
The Dutch, much improved after the restart, played some nice football in central areas but struggled to create chances, with Portugal looking the more likely to add to their lead the longer the game went on.
The winning strike came on the hour-mark when Guedes, given the nod ahead of Benficasensation Felix Joao, was fed on the edge of the box following a mazy run by Bernardo Silva and the Valencia forward zipped it past a helpless Jasper Cillessen.
There was frustration for Cristiano Ronaldo, who, three years after limping off in the early stages of the European Championship final of 2016, failed to make his mark on the game, but that will matter little to Fernando Santos’ side who become the first winners of the Nations League, having made it through a group of France and Germany.
TALKING POINT – Rising stars Guedes and Silva steal the show
The showpiece occasion was billed as a battle of two potential Ballon d’Or winners – Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk – but it was the rising stars of Portugal, Guedes and Silva, who took centre-stage. Gueyes was perhaps a surprise inclusion and he repaid his manager’s faith with a stunning winning goal, while Silva – a star performer in the semi-final victory over Switzerland – registered yet another assist for his country. Santos’ side have plenty of attacking power amongst their ranks, but they are built on their defensive stability and once Portugal got themselves into the lead they never really looked like conceding, as Ronaldo lifted his fourth title of the season.
As for the Netherlands, and while they have improved tenfold in the last 12 months, gone are the days of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie; they lack the fire-power of days gone by. The Dutch looked fatigued tonight, too, and perhaps their battle with England on Thursday night played its part in this underwhelming performance.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Goncalo Guedes
Eder was the hero as Portugal claimed the Euro 2016 title; tonight it’s the 22-year-old Valencia attacker who will steal the headlines. With rising stars like Silva and Fernandes (both 24 years old), who were both lively and candidates for the star performer, in their ranks, Portugal are full of potential and could continue to dominate the European international scene for years to come.
Portugal: Rui Patricio 6, Semedo 7, Dias 7, Fonte 7, Guerreiro 6, Fernandes 8, Carvalho 7, Danilo7, B Silva 8, Guedes 9, Ronaldo 6.. subs: Carvalho N/A, Moutinho N/A, R Silva 5.
Netherlands: Cillessen 7, Dumfries 6, De Ligt 6, van Dijk 7, Blind 6, De Roon 5, F De Jong 5, Bergwijn 5, Wijnaldum 6, Babel 4, Depay 5.. subs: Van de Beek 5, Promes 6, L de Jong N/A.
- 38′ – CLOSE! Portugal continue to ask the questions. The ball is worked to Fernandes on the edge of the box, he tries to find the top corner with a curler but it zips just over the crossbar.38′ –
- 60′ – GOAL! Portugal 1-0 Netherlands: Guedes sends the Estadio do Dragao wild! What an assist from Bernardo Silva though. He skips away from his marker with a cheeky nutmeg, cuts it back to Guedes who smashes it past Cillessen with a vicious shot from the edge of the box!
- 65′ – SAVE! Agile goalkeeping by Patricio as he gets down quickly to save Depay’s bullet header. That’s the closest the Dutch have come.
- Portugal have won two of the last four competitive international tournaments that they’ve appeared in, with their previous triumph coming at EURO 2016.
- Portugal are the first European nation to host and win a final of a major competition since France beat Brazil 3-0 in the final of the 1998 World Cup.
- Gonçalo Guedes has been directly involved in five goals in his last eight appearances for Portugal (three goals and two assists).