(GUA) Portugal win Nations League as Gonçalo Guedes does for the Netherlands

(GUA)

Cristiano Ronaldo lifts up the trophy as the jubilant Portugal players party in front of their home fans after beating Netherlands to win the the Nations League.
 Cristiano Ronaldo lifts up the trophy as the jubilant Portugal players party in front of their home fans after beating Netherlands to win the the Nations League. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

At the final whistle the celebrations from Cristiano Ronaldo were joyous but relatively restrained compared to the other occasions when he has added a trophy to his collection. He hugged his teammates. He even embraced the referee. Two arms raised to the skies, but nothing too elaborate. Ronaldo did not even mark the occasion by peeling off his top to remind us of the contours of his six-pack. Which was highly unlike him but a reflection, perhaps, that the Nations League is not quite up there with some of his other achievements.

At the same time, Ronaldo and his team could still reflect on another highly satisfying achievement to win the inaugural competition following Portugal’s success at Euro 2016. They still had a lot of fun celebrating the latest triumph. Ronaldo was the man to lift the new trophy, sealed with a kiss. Gonçalo Guedes, a 22-year-old Valencia attacker, scored the decisive goal and, yet again, it was difficult not to marvel at the country’s ability to produce gifted footballers.

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Ronaldo, the greatest of them all, did not even have to reach his most exhilarating heights but, ultimately, all that conjecture about whether he could be the first man to dribble past Virgil van Dijk in the past season felt like a sub-plot to the real story. That was a deserved Portugal victory on a night when the Seleçao might also have shown they are not always reliant on their five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Bernardo Silva certainly deserved his award as the outstanding player of these finals, having displayed the kind of soft-touch brilliance that made him such a prodigious performer in Manchester City’s successful title defence. Rafa Silva, one of Portugal’s substitutes, lit up the night once he entered the game and the official man-of-the-match award went to Rúben Dias, who was part of a defence that restricted the Netherlands to only a couple of opportunities. Ronald Koeman’s team found it difficult to get any real momentum and, crucially, their opponents were not as accident-prone as England’s defenders had been in Guimãraes on Thursday.

All of which must have made it a slightly strange evening for the hundreds, potentially thousands, of England supporters who were among the Estádio do Dragão crowd, having bought tickets in advance in the hope their team might be involved. Those supporters were determined to be heard – “shall we sing for you” being their way of introduction – and some clearly felt it was the kind of occasion that warranted booing Van Dijk, in common with Thursday’s game. At least there was no dissent during the Dutch national anthem this time. Or failed MEP candidates punching anyone from behind. It was much more what Uefa would have wanted – a decent match and a happy crowd, culminating with Ronaldo lifting the trophy amid fireworks and silver tickertape.

To begin with the different sets of supporters – all three of them – did not have a great deal to get excited about. Indeed the first Mexican wave started before the half-hour mark and it is never promising when the crowd has to make its own entertainment, especially that early into a match.

After that, however, Portugal took control, Bernardo Silva came alive and, slowly but surely, the Portuguese in the crowd started to make themselves heard above their English counterparts. Ronaldo’s nutmeg on Frenkie de Jong felt like the football equivalent of patting his opponent on the head, missing only the famous CR7 wink, and Guedes always looked eager to justify his selection ahead of João Félix, the 19-year-old Benfica forward who might be attracting the attention of Europe’s elite clubs but had to settle for a place on the bench.

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Koeman did make attacking substitutions by bringing on Quincy Promes, Donny van de Beek and Luuk de Jong during different stages of the second half. The problem for the Dutch was that, within seconds of Van de Beek’s arrival, Bernardo Silva had linked up with Guedes for the key moment of the night.

Bernardo Silva, as always, was acutely aware of the players around him. A more selfish player might have tried a shot once he had advanced into the penalty area. He shaped as if that was his intention, too. But it was a deception and instead he played a reverse pass into the path of Guedes, who was following up in a more central position. Guedes had Ronaldo to his right but decided to have a go himself and struck the ball powerfully enough for it to find the bottom corner of the net even though the goalkeeper, Jasper Cillesen, reached the shot.

One of the disappointments for Koeman was that, even then, his side could not apply concerted pressure. There were a couple of chances for an equaliser, most notably Memphis Depay with a header that was saved by Rui Patrício, but the late onslaught that might have been expected never materialised. Ronaldo soon had his hands on the trophy, with Portugal the first name to be engraved in its silver.

Match stats

Possession

5644

NED56PRT44%

Goal attempts

7PortugalOff target2Holland9PortugalOn target2HollandCorners104Fouls614

Lineups

Portugal

  • 1 Rui Patricio
  • 20 Nelson Semedo
  • 4 Dias
  • 6 Fonte
  • 5 Guerreiro
  • 13 Danilo Pereira
  • 14 William Carvalho
  • 16 Bruno Fernandes
  • 7 Ronaldo
  • 17 Goncalo Guedes
  • 10 Bernardo Silva

Substitutes

  • 12 Jose Sa
  • 2 Joao Cancelo
  • 8 Joao Moutinho (s 81′)
  • 9 Dyego Sousa
  • 11 Jota
  • 15 Rafa Silva (s 75′)
  • 18 Neves (s 90′)
  • 19 Mario Rui
  • 21 Pizzi
  • 23 Joao Felix
  • 22 Beto

Holland

  • 1 Cillessen
  • 22 Dumfries 
  • 3 de Ligt
  • 4 van Dijk 
  • 17 Blind
  • 15 de Roon
  • 21 de Jong
  • 8 Wijnaldum
  • 7 Bergwijn
  • 10 Depay
  • 9 Babel

Substitutes

  • 13 Vermeer
  • 2 Hateboer
  • 5 Ake
  • 6 Propper
  • 11 Promes (s 46′)
  • 12 van Aanholt
  • 14 de Vrij
  • 16 Strootman
  • 18 Vilhena
  • 19 de Jong (s 81′)
  • 20 van de Beek (s 59′)
  • 23 Bizot