Portugal beat Dutch to win Nations League title
Portugal became the first team to win UEFA’s Nations League competition when a well-crafted goal by Goncalo Guedes gave them a 1-0 win over Netherlands in the final on Sunday.
Guedes, 22, nutmegged an opponent, exchanged passes with player of the tournament Bernando Silva and then beat goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with a shot from the edge of the area on the hour for his fourth international goal in 17 appearances.
With the volume rising at the Estadio do Dragao, Portugal broke the deadlock on the hour with an incisive move between Guedes and Silva, although Cillessen might have expected to save the shot.
Silva said he didn’t even see Guedes before making the assist for the game-winner.
“Someone made a great pass to me, but then I didn’t even see [Guedes],” the Manchester City star said. “I only heard him shout at me and I put the ball to where I heard him. Luckily it went well.”
Portugal had only 45 percent of possession but were more dangerous throughout as they added another trophy to the Euro 2016 title they won three years ago with a 1-0 win against hosts France, also under coach Fernando Santos.
“For the last five years, we have been an almost indestructible family who know what we are capable of doing,” said Santos. “We knew we could win this match.”
Although the Nations League is of far less importance, the win may have partially made up for Euro 2004 which Portugal hosted and where they were beaten in the final by Greece.
“We finished in brilliant form and we are very happy to give this title to the Portuguese,” Silva said. “I’m happy I helped in the win and get my first title with the national team. We are very proud and it is time to celebrate and rest.”
The game took a while to get going but when it did, Portugal were far more threatening with Bruno Fernandes and Silva involved in almost all their best moves and Cristiano Ronaldo an ever-present threat.
Fernandes had several efforts on goal in the first half, including one that Cillessen palmed around the post and another which curled just over the bar following some nifty footwork in the penalty area from Silva.
Ronaldo, whose hat-trick against Switzerland on Wednesday took Portugal into the final, had one effort on goal in the first half when he picked up the ball on the left, cut inside and fizzed a low shot which Cillessen did well to hold.
The Dutch — who had one day less to recover from their semi-final than Portugal — failed to muster a shot on target in the first half.
Portugal went straight back on the attack after halftime and forced a flurry of corners before the Dutch finally made home goalkeeper Rui Patricio make his first save of the night.
Memphis Depay got free and cut the ball back, it bounced off a defender towards goal and Patricio got down to save.
As the Dutch finally stirred, Patricio made a good save from a Depay header and defender Ruben Dias — voted man of the match — made an excellent clearance from a dangerous Daley Blind cross into the penalty area.
Portugal, though, were always a threat on the break and richly deserved the win.
“You have to be better with the ball and we were not,” said Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman. “They were masters at defending when they were ahead. We should have been a bit more clever in looking for free kicks — we were not good enough tonight.”