Tue, Jun 11, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Portugal beat Netherlands to win first Nations League

AFP, PORTO, Portugal

Portugal on Sunday added the inaugural UEFA Nations League title to their Euro 2016 triumph as a Goncalo Guedes strike on the hour won an underwhelming final 1-0 against the Netherlands in Porto.

The Netherlands’ defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt largely kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet, but Valencia winger Guedes proved the match winner as his shot had too much power for Jasper Cillessen in goal.

“Thank god things have gone well for the national team in recent years. Portugal has won important things like Euro 2016 and now the League of Nations,” Ronaldo said. “It may seem like an easy job, but it’s hard, it takes a lot of dedication and willingness. I think the players deserve to be congratulated.”

Portugal had the advantage of an extra day’s rest and not being forced to extra-time against Switzerland in their semi-final as the Netherlands were in seeing off England on Thursday last week and the hosts looked the fresher throughout, with Ronald Koeman’s men jaded at the end of a long season.

“If we were tired I don’t know, but we were not good enough,” Koeman said. “They defended well and the were very compact in their game, but you have to be better with the ball and we were not.”

The match had been billed as a showdown between Ronaldo and Van Dijk, but with the Netherlands captain rock solid at the back, Portugal’s main threat came from midfield, with Bernardo Silva rightfully winning player of the tournament.

“I’m very happy, very proud. It’s my first title with my country,” said Silva, who also won an English domestic treble with Manchester City this season. “Thank you to the Portuguese people, what a night for us, what a night for the country.”

Silva provided the one true moment of quality to decide the game.

He broke through the defense and then picked out Guedes, who bravely ignored playing in Ronaldo to drill a low shot past Cillessen.

“If you want to win you have to play well, and if Portugal won we had to play well, whether it was handsome or not,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress. We have to be very proud of ourselves — now disappointment is in our heads, but we have to keep the heads up,” Van Dijk said. “It’s been a good season, but hopefully next season is going to be even better. That’s the only thing I’m striving for.”

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