UEFA Nations League: Portugal edge Netherlands to emerge inaugural champions

Hosts Portugal claimed their second trophy in three years by beating the Netherlands to win the inaugural Nations League.

Fernando Santos’ side triumphed at the 2016 European Championship and Goncalo Guedes’ second half strike gave them a narrow victory in Porto.

The Valencia winger smashed in from the edge of the area following Bernardo Silva’s clever cutback, though Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen will be disappointed he did not keep the effort out.

The Dutch looked to get back into the game but Memphis Depay’s powerful header was well saved by Wolves number one Rui Patricio and ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon lashed over.

England finished third in the tournament after a victory on penalties over Switzerland in Guimaraes.

Ronaldo kept quiet by Van Dijk

The game was billed on the clash of the two influential captains – Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

Both players claimed silverware at club level last season, Ronaldo winning the Serie A title with Juventus, while Van Dijk contributed to ending Liverpool’s seven year wait for a trophy by triumphing in the Champions League.

Ronaldo, 34, scored a sublime hat-trick in the semi-final victory over Switzerland but was unable to add to his 88 international goals, seeing a thumping, goalbound drive blocked by the towering Van Dijk.

The closest he came to netting was when he skipped past two defenders from the left, but stuck a shot straight at Barcelona’s Cillessen. He also smashed a free-kick wide late on.

Former Southampton and Celtic player Van Dijk was his solid, assured self at the back but could do nothing about the winning goal, though Cillessen was unable to keep out Guedes’ strike having got a hand on the effort.

Portugal are now unbeaten in their last 10 games and despite defeat, Netherlands – who have failed to reach the last two major tournaments – will take heart from their progress since the appointment of Ronald Koeman as boss.

How did two potential summer movers do?

With the international transfer window about to open on Tuesday, clubs will be gearing up to complete signings in time for the new season.

Two players who have been heavily linked with moves were in action in the final and highlighted why their signatures will be so sought after.

Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes, linked with a reported big-money move to either Manchester United or Tottenham, scored 32 goals and provided 17 assists for Sporting Lisbon last season.

The 24-year-old was one of the best players on the field with his lively movement and eye for goal. His six shots in the match were more than any other player, forcing Cillessen into making saves, albeit to efforts from long range.

Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt is another who has been heavily linked with a move to United as well as Barcelona and the teenager captained Ajax to a Dutch league and cup double.

Playing alongside Van Dijk, the 19-year-old impressed at the back once more, contributing six clearances and three tackles for his side and also winning the ball back three times.


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