Portugal vs Netherlands result: Goncalo Guedes goal seals home soil glory in Nations League final

Portugal 1-0 Netherlands: The hosts defeated a flat Dutch side to win the inaugural edition of the Nations League

Miguel Delaney
Estádio do Dragão
Sunday 09 June 2019 21:39
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Portugal National team training before Nations league semi-final

Having already been the kings of Europe, Portugal now become the princes too. Fernando Santos’ young squad proclaimed themselves the continent's most exciting by winning the new secondary trophy, beating a flat Netherlands side 1-0 to win the inaugural Nations League on home turf.

They will now be among the favourites for next year’s European Championship to retain the trophy they already hold.

That is what felt most instructive about this new competition. It was also indicative that the winning goal was not be a veteran or legend like Cristiano Ronaldo but one of their young stars in 22-year-old Goncalo Guedes. It was naturally set up by the exquisite Bernardo Silva, whose growing importance in the side seems to be heralding the rise of this new generation of Portuguese players.

This new generation of Dutch players looked like they still have some developing, too. They are hugely impressive but not as far along as this Portuguese side.

For a side with a reputation for keeping the ball, and a perfect player to do so in Frenkie de Jong, the Netherlands ceded an awful lot of it - and space - to Santos’ team.

Portugal did not just look like the home team, but the more developed team, as they really went at the Dutch. Bruno Fernandes - seemingly wanted by half of Europe’s major clubs right now - meanwhile really went for goal. He had five of their 12 shots in the first half, each one getting closer but never actually clinical enough.

Those are the sort of stats you usually see about Ronaldo, but he had a more measured game, influencing things from out wide.

Hovering over all of this was of course another stat, that has been repeated so much of late. Virgil van Dijk has not been dribbled past all season, or at all since March 2018. That didn’t change, so that’s now 66 consecutive games without the centre-half being individually beaten.

Ronaldo didn’t even really try. There were only two real flashpoints between the two, when Van Dijk blocked a shot, and then later shoved Ronaldo over. The Portuguese did what he has done before against Van Dijk, and concentrated on the weaker on the junior central defensive partner, in this case Mattijs de Ligt.

Goncalo Guedes celebrates scoring the game's only goal

It was another game when the teenager wasn’t at his best, and seemed to naturally be suffering the after-effects of a long season. Ronaldo skipped past him early on to get off a low shot, that was pushed away. De Ligt was similarly caught for the eventual goal, but not by Ronaldo.

It was the player that may be becoming as important to his national team as their all-time great and is surely now one of the finest in the world: Bernardo Silva.

He had already beaten De Light to a header despite an eight-inch height difference, to show his physical power, before displaying his much more widely appreciated deftness with a fine cut-back for Goncalo Guedes.

The midfielder had only Van Dijk in front of him, blocking the route to goal. Rather than try and beat him, though, Guedes found another solution. He just powerfully hit the ball past him. Jasper Cillesen couldn’t hold it, and Portugal were ahead.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates

The Dutch, having been so bizarrely toothless and lacking in ambition, finally woke up a bit.

Rui Patricio suddenly had to make some actual saves, but Memphis shouldn’t really have given him the opportunity for one in the 75th minute. The forwarded headed straight at the goalkeeper when he had the space and time to put it anywhere else. That was as good as it got for the Dutch.

There was no great siege, no force, nor any zip at all to their player. Even De Jong’s passes were that of a passenger rather than the player who looked like he had the world at his feet when he had the ball at his feet on Thursday.

It was Portugal’s youngsters that were having the impact and catching the eye. Bruno Fernandes offered one of the moments of the game on 77 minutes, claiming control of the ball with some keep-ups in the centre of the pitch, before surging purposely forward.

That is what his team are doing.

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