Portugal crowned UEFA Nations League Champions

Portugal 1-0 Netherlands

The Seleção defeated the Netherlands 1-0 tonight at the Estádio do Dragão to become champions of the inaugural Nations League tournament. With an intelligent and organized performance, Portugal outshot the Dutch 18-to-4 with Bernardo Silva, Danilo, Semedo, and Bruno Fernandes each putting in wonderful individual efforts.

Though oft-maligned for his subpar performances during the World Cup in 2018, Guedes showed great resiliency to come into the side for João Félix and win the match for Portugal with a cracking finish on the hour mark, completing his outstanding return to competitive football after spending much of the 2018/19 season sidelined through injury.   

Santos made three changes to the side that defeated Switzerland with Fonte replacing the injured Pepe, Danilo providing stronger defensive cover alongside William, and Guedes taking over for João Félix following his decent second half cameo against the Swiss. Meanwhile, the Netherlands were unchanged from the side that defeated England in extra time in Guimarães.

As anticipated, the Dutch took control of possession right away with Portugal remaining compact and ready to pounce in a 4-3-3. Bernardo Silva was bundled over inside the penalty area after a brilliant pass over the top in the 5th minute, but the referee judged the contact with Van Dijk to have been fair. Bruno Fernandes won a corner and delivered a teasing cross in the 11th minute with William just failing to make contact at the near post.

But Portugal were well-organized and smothered the Dutch threat with Ruben Dias making a good tackle on Depay after a bad pass by Fernandes was intercepted. In fact, it was Portugal who gradually began to threaten.

First, Fonte saw his low header saved following a corner then Fernandes called Cillessen into action with a trademark drive from outside the penalty area. On the ensuing corner, Ronaldo’s fierce header was saved with difficulty although the play was eventually whistled for offside.

Bruno Fernandes continued to threaten with another shot just blocked by Van Dijk then the Sporting playmaker went much closer with an effort over the bar after being teed up by Bernardo Silva.

Cristiano Ronaldo fired in a low attempt minutes later with half-time approaching, and Portugal finished the opening 45 minutes well on top despite less possession, registering 12 total attempts while not allowing the Dutch a single shot.

Koeman immediately made a change to start the second half with Quincy Promes coming on for Ryan Babel. The Netherlands assumed control and began to threaten Portugal and the Seleção began to find opportunities on the counter. Ronaldo burst through several challenges and put Guedes through, but the Valencia winger’s attempted cross was cleared for a corner.

Depay then showed great strength to get past Fonte and slip in a shot at Patricio’s near post that the Wolverhampton keeper did well to save. But Portugal continued to threaten on the counterattack and it would eventually pay dividends. Gonçalo Guedes started the move with a brilliant nutmeg and lay off for Bernardo Silva. The Manchester City playmaker’s drop off found Guedes who smashed it past Cillessen into the bottom right corner from 20 yards, fully just reward for Portugal’s work on the evening.

But the Netherlands would not give up easily and Patricio was called upon to keep out a dangerous header from Memphis Depay after a cross from the right. Dias cleared the ball just in front of several Dutch attackers minutes later and it was obvious Portugal needed a change.

Santos responded with Rafa Silva for Guedes. The Dutch wasted another opportunity in the 79thminute with De Roon shooting over when well-placed from 20 yards. Fernandes tested Cillessen yet again in the 80th minute, but it was Portugal’s fullbacks who came closest to scoring with both Guerreiro and Semedo just failing to capitalize on rampaging forays into the Dutch penalty area.

But as was the case throughout the match, Portugal’s organization and desire smothered the Dutch attempts to create and forced them into hopeless crosses and shots from range. It was a night when Portugal truly deserved to win with a composed and cohesive display that will greatly encourage Portugal supporters all over the world.

Unlike the match against Switzerland, Ronaldo’s influence was not required with Guedes even choosing to ignore Ronaldo and have the shot himself on the winning goal. Though not a tournament with the same prestige as the Euros or World Cup, Portugal once again showed they are tough to beat and can adapt to a wide range of circumstances, including not being able to outpossess their opponent. Portugal's midfielders were superb with Fernandes testing the keeper from range, William and Danilo providing excellent defensive cover and Bernardo Silva involved in almost every key move for the Seleção. Meanwhile, Guerreiro and Semedo put in competent displays in defense and attack.

For the Dutch, their control of possession looked as if it might bear fruit in the second half, but Portugal’s threat on the counter and denial of clear opportunities frustrated them. In the end they might have been lucky not to concede again. Even so, Koeman’s squad will be buoyed by their performance overall in this tournament after enduring several difficult years in international play.


Portugal XI: Rui Patrício - Raphael Guerreiro, Rúben Dias, José Fonte, Nélson Semedo - William Carvalho (Neves, 90'), Danilo, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes (Moutinho, 81') - Gonçalo Guedes (Rafa Silva, 75'), Cristiano Ronaldo

Netherlands XI: Cillessen - Blind, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Dumfries - De Roon (Luuk De Jong, 81'), De Jong, Wijnaldum - Babel (Promes, 46'), Depay, Bergwijn (Den Beek, 60')



[1-0] - Gonçalo Guedes 60'


  by Nathan Motz