This is Seleção das Quinas’ first silverware on their home soil.
In a very close affair, Fernando Santos‘ Portugal emerged victorious over the mighty Dutch, as they clinched the inaugural UEFA National League trophy. Valencia youngster Goncalo Guedes’ thunderous strike in the second half was enough to see Portugal through in the finals against Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands.
The first half was intense with Portugal edging the Dutch in chance creation. Burno Fernandes dominated the midfield and squandered a lot of chances to draw first blood. The Dutch gained some momentum in the second half before Bernardo Silva and Guedes combined on the counter as the latter scored the solitary goal of the game at the hour mark. It was enough for the Seleção das Quinas to clinch their first international trophy on home soil after the horrors of 2004 Euros against Greece.
5. Did the Netherlands miss a proper striker up front?
Ronald Koeman tends to play with Memphis Depay upfront pairing him up with Ryan Babel and young Steven Bergwijn. The Dutch lack a proper focal point in the attack which made life easier for Jose Fonte and Ruben Dias at the heart of the Portuguese backline.
Depay often drifts wide making it easier for the opposition defenders. The Dutch play a lot on the counter using the pace of their men in attack, but here it was totally different as they needed someone who can hold the ball up the field. Koeman did introduce lanky forward Luuk De Jong later in the game and there was some discomfort among the Portuguese defenders from set pieces.
Koeman should have considered someone like Wout Weghorst. The 26-year old Wolfsburg marksman has been among the goals this season, scoring 18 and assisting seven in all competitions for the Bundesliga side. His inclusion could have added more dynamism to Koeman’s gameplay and his physicality could have been a headache for the Portuguese defenders.
4. Virgil Van Dijk should be a strong contender for the Ballon d’Or after his heroics in defeat
The former Southampton defender has come a long way and has achieved the pinnacle of European football, Champions League with Liverpool. He has been rock solid in the Premier League as well and has continued that stellar form for the Oranje. He guided the Dutch with unreal perseverance and despite the defeat in the finals, the 27-year old must hold his head high.
Van Dijk has been the best defender by far this season in Europe and his chances of winning the Balon d’Or should not be affected by his defeat. The 27-year old was solid once again and has proven his mettle in each and every pressure situations this season. It will be a great statement for the sport if the Ballon d’Or is handed over to defender over his midfield and attacking counterparts.
3. Is Ruben Dias the future of Portuguese defence?
With Jose Fonte and Pepe in the twilight of their illustrious career, the 22-year old centre back from SL Benfica can be the spearhead of the Portuguese next generation in defence. Despite being a youngster he showed a very matured demeanour in covering up for his fullbacks and had tremendous communication with Jose Fonte to keep the Dutch attackers at bay.
Already an exciting prospect in Europe, Ruben Dias has got a calm head on his shoulders and shows potential to be the mainstay for the Seleção das Quinas in coming years. He won the man of the match in the finals for his heroics in handing the hosts a clean sheet in the crunch fixture.
2. Were the Netherlands denied a clear penalty?
It was late in the game and Ronald Koeman had played his last card in throwing striker Luuk De Jong into the line of fire. The 28-year-old PSV man had an immediate impact and earned a corner for his side. The controversy gathered fire from the following corner where Ruben Dias evidently had arms wrapped around the lanky De Jong and brought him down.
The referee did not acknowledge the move and waved play to continue. It went unnoticed but there was serious contact between the two players shown in the replays. The Video Assistant referee also did not intervene as play went on. It could have been a turning point in such a big game and the Dutch will feel they at least deserved a referral from the on-field match official.
1. Have Portugal done enough to prove that they are not only a Cristiano Ronaldo-centric side?
Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player donning the Portuguese jersey currently but this Seleção das Quinas side has exceptional individual talents all over the field in every position. Their game may revolve around Ronaldo, considering his capabilities but they were never dependant on the 34-year old Juventus man to come up with goals in every game.
Consistent performers like Bernardo Silva, Nelson Semedo, Bruno Fernandes and others play in top teams across Europe and have proven their mettle for their national team as well. Fernando Santos also deserves a lot of credit for building a young squad of players who are talented and hungry to prove their abilities at the biggest stage.
Players like Ruben Dias, Goncalo Guedes, Joao Felix have stepped up whenever required and have performed at par with someone like Ronaldo. It is a great time for Portuguese football as their future is in safe and capable hands.