The first UEFA Nations League champions will be crowned on Sunday evening when Portugal and the Netherlands go at it in Porto for a title which may not be steeped in glory just yet but which comes at the end of what has been a very refreshing addition to the international sphere.
Both teams have seen off some seasoned opponents to make it through to this final and while it might not have the pressure and the scrutiny of its equivalent match next summer it still acts as good preparation for tournaments to come.
The European champions are one match away from heading into the defence of their title next year having scooped the Nations League crown and few can ask more of them than that. Any signs that they would not take these finals seriously disappeared when Cristiano Ronaldo was selected in the squad and they delivered a good performance against Switzerland in the semi-final.
Portugal were in control of that match throughout and while they only won it relatively late on, it would have been something of a travesty had the contest gone to extra time. The encouraging thing for Portugal was that although Ronaldo bagged the three goals there were plenty of other good displays in attacking areas within their ranks and that certainly bodes well for them when it comes to defending the European Championship next summer.
In contrast to Portugal, I didn’t think the Netherlands were all that good. They made it into this final by feeding on mistakes from England and if they are waiting for those gifts from Portugal here they could very well be disappointed. To be fair to the Dutch though, those mistakes were born out of a high press so they do deserve credit for that at the end of a lengthy season.
There is a youthful freshness to this Netherlands side and many judges are touting them for big things in the future after a few years in the doldrums. If they can go into that period with a trophy under their belts it will do so much for them as a side with them then having the belief that they can win major competitions again. With that in mind this feels like a big night for the Dutch.
Portugal have not offered up any injury concerns so it would be something of a surprise if they are not unchanged, unless any of their players are feeling their legs after such a lengthy campaign domestically.
Quincy Promes changed the game for the Netherlands in their semi-final when he came off the bench and he could be rewarded with a start against an aging Portugal back line that is not the quickest.
There might not be the pressure on this match that there will be in a World Cup or European Championship final but it is still a final and there is a trophy at stake and as such I fancy we might see more of a cagey affair here compared to what we saw in the semi-finals earlier in the week. Portugal can’t be described as the most expansive side in the world and both teams have top class defenders.
I do think the Dutch lack an out and out goalscorer which is the one thing which could hold them back down the line so I’m going to go against the general grain here and take under 2.5. I didn’t see three goals coming in the Portugal semi-final before that crazy penalty situation and goals only came from mistakes in the Netherlands game. Assuming such soft errors aren’t seen here then I don’t expect to see three goals in this one.
WON – Back Under 2.5 goals for a 4/10 stake at 1.80 with Bet365