Date: Sunday 9th June at 20:45
Stadium: Estadio do Dragao, Portugal
The inaugural Nations League will reach its gripping conclusion on Sunday afternoon, with both countries looking to add to their one and only international triumph. The tournament has been a great success, and fans and players alike have taken the competition as seriously as they would with a competitive tournament. But, there can only be one winner.
It was a contrasting route to the final for both sides; with the Dutch being handed their spot and the Portuguese made to work very hard for theirs. Portugal were handed a tricky looking semi-final against Switzerland; who had overcome Belgium to reach this point of the competition. However, once again the man who took center stage was Cristiano Ronaldo. The main man for Portugal scored a hat-trick; including two in the final five minutes. The first of his goals was a trademark free-kick which deceived the Swiss goalkeeper. Once again it was to be VAR that threatened to take the limelight of attention. This came after a Swiss player was bundled to the ground at one end before the play being allowed to continue and then Bernardo Silva being brought down in the opposite area. The referee gave Portugal the penalty, but after a six-minute delay and multiple replays on the pitchside monitor; it was decided that the initial Swiss penalty was the correct decision. At that point, the Swiss subsequently scored from the spot and levelled the scores. But, from there on, it was the Ronaldo show; like many big games are.
The pick of the semi-finals was the intriguing fixture between England and the Netherlands. Both teams have enjoyed a resurgence over recent years, with the fresh breed of players that have come through the ranks. However, it was a game that lacked serious quality and all four goals in the game could have easily been avoided; just showcasing how far away both countries are from competing with the world’s best. That is highlighted in the BetXChange odds for next summer’s European Championships.
A slip from Matthijs de Ligt let in Marcus Rashford before the highly-regarded central defender hacked down his opponent allowing the Manchester United player to score from the spot. Soon after the restart de Ligt made amends for his mistake by putting the Dutch level, after alluding the poor defending by Kyle Walker. The match looked destined for extra time before Jesse Lingard thought he has won it for the Three Lions. However, VAR once again played its part by ruling the goal out after Lingard was adjudged to be offside, but it was the finest of moments.
Extra-time began and in truth, it will be 30 minutes that England players will be hoping to forget quickly. The Netherlands were handed the initiative after John Stones was caught on the ball to allow Memphis Depay in on the England goal, Jordan Pickford saved the first effort but the ball was bundled over the line; eventually going down as a Kyle Walker own goal. The Three Lions began chasing the game in the second period but a combination of a poor ball from Stones and bad touch from Ross Barkley allowed Depay to pounce once more; before the former Premier League flop unselfishly squared the ball to Quincy Promes to ensure Holland’s passage to the final.
It promises to be an intriguing fixture between the Dutch and Portugal on Sunday, as Cristiano Ronaldo will once again come up against the man that defended him perfectly in the Champions League earlier in the season- de Ligt. Not only that, but the Portuguese superstar will also look to get the better of Virgil van Dijk. That will ultimately be where the game is won.
Head to Head
There have only been 14 previous meetings between these sides, and it’s Portugal that holds the clear advantage. The Portuguese have won on seven occasions, while the Dutch have won two fixtures. There have also been five draws. The most recent fixture between the pair came last year and ended in a comprehensive 3-0 win for the Netherlands. Memphis Depay, Ryan Babel and Virgil van Dijk were the scorers on that evening in Geneve.
This match could be a tight and cagey affair, as both teams have great defences. However, the Dutch press will cause no end of problems for Portugal and they will get more chances in the game. Should the Dutch find a way to effectively deal with Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva then they can win this in 90 minutes, but Ronaldo will get at least one chance and will force extra time. However, the Netherlands will eventually get their hands on the trophy.
Tip: Netherlands to lift the Nations League with BetXChange.