Portugal take on Netherlands on Sunday night to determine who will be the winner of UEFA’s inaugural Nations League. The tournament hasn’t been met with universal acclaim, but it must be a legitimate competition, as England did reasonably well before shooting themselves in the foot and crashing out in the semi-finals. What more proof do you need?
Both of these sides have been champions of Europe in the traditional sense in the past, but who is going to come out on top here? Home advantage always counts for plenty, and Paddy has the Portuguese as the favourites. Fernando Santos’ side are 7/5 to win the match, or just 7/10 to lift the trophy at some point.
However, the last meeting of these two nations took place in a friendly just over a year ago, and Netherlands romped home with a 3-0 victory. And, yes, Cristiano Ronaldo did play, before you ask. Is there any value in Koeman’s kids, at 15/8 in normal time or 11/10 by the bitter end?
Their form is certainly encouraging. The Dutch have only suffered two defeats in their last eight games, a spell in which they’ve played Germany three times and France twice (plus minnows like Belarus and England).
But it’s hard to look past Portugal, considering they haven’t lost a competitive match on home soil for almost five years, and prior to their last meeting they hadn’t lost to Netherlands since 1991. In the battle of Ronaldo vs Ronald, it looks like it’s the Dutchman who’ll be disappointed.
Whoever gets to head home with UEFA’s newest bauble, the history of matches between these countries does not suggest there’s going to be many goals. Netherlands’ 3-0 win last time out was very much the exception rather than the rule, as there had only been 22 goals in the 12 clashes prior to that. Only two of those matches were won by more than one goal too.
In fact, the last three competitive meetings have all seen the Portuguese edge it by one, and that seems the likely outcome here too.
The theme of low scoring games has generally applied to Portugal’s recent matches too. Though they beat Switzerland 3-1 in the semi-final, it was only 1-1 in the 87th minute. In their four matches before that, the Portuguese had ‘enjoyed’ two 1-1 draws and two goalless ones.
Netherlands’ games have generally been far more entertaining in recent times, with England the last team to keep them to nil, back in March 2018.
I’m not sure how that happened, let’s put it down to administrative error.
I’m not expecting this one to be a goal bonanza, but both teams should be able to find the net at least once.
When it comes to goal scorers, is there any point looking past Cristiano Ronaldo? The world’s second best player would hate you to do that, after all. Ronnie scored a hat trick in the semi-final and has also scored four of Portugal’s last five goals against Netherlands, a run which stretches back to 2004. He’s 11/10 to score here, and I’d never dissuade you from selecting him.
But there’s no fun in choosing him either. Andre Silva scored three of Portugal’s five goals in the Nations League group stage, but sadly he’s absent through injury. João Félix is an exciting young striker who bagged 20 goals for Benfica this season, so he might be worth considering.
However, for a value bet, I’m going for Bernardo Silva. His last two goals were against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, so he’s the man for a big match, and he also scored Portugal’s winner against Poland in the group stage.
Four players are tied on two goals for the Netherlands in the Nations League: Depay, Promes, van Dijk and Wijnaldum. Then there’s Babel, de Ligt and Kyle Walker on one apiece. As Walker is eligible for this one, we’d better look elsewhere. Memphis Depay finished the season in decent form, with four goals in his last six games for Lyon. He then somehow managed to have ten shots without scoring against England, so is probably due another goal pretty soon.