The Netherlands were close to crowning a remarkable comeback with a major tournament victory, but in the end they had to concede defeat to Portugal in an intense Nations League final in Porto.
Expectations had been high prior to the game, with two attacking sides facing each other in the first UEFA Nations League final. Supported by some 4,000 fans, the Netherlands however got off to a poor start, looking slightly tired after Thursday’s exhausting semi-final against England, which was only decided after extra time.
Paradoxically, Ronald Koeman’s men had considerably more possession, but didn’t manage to dominate the game. Portugal, on the other hand, looked fitter and more lively. As a result, the hosts managed to produce more scoring opportunities, but no goals, in the first 45 minutes.
With Quincy Promes coming on to replace Ryan Babel after the break, the Netherlands regained some of their form of recent months and steadily became more dangerous. Another tactical substitution followed after just under an hour of play, when Donny van de Beek was brought on for Steven Bergwijn.
However, just a minute later, Portugal opened the score with a powerful strike by Gonçalo Guedes after a clever reverse pass by Bernardo Silva, who was named Player of the Tournament after the game. Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen got his fingers to the ball, but failed to prevent the opener.
In a desparate effort to turn the tide, the Netherlands resorted to an all-or-nothing offensive. Memphis Depay was close to equalising in the 65th minute, but found his header saved by Rui Patricio. There were more opportunities for the Dutch, but they failed to find the net. A last-minute substitution - Luuk de Jong came on as pinch hitter – was to no avail, and so one goal was enough for Portugal to secure the inaugural prize.
After the summer, the Oranje will resume their qualifying campaign for the 2020 UEFA European Championship with two away games. On 6 September, they face Germany in Hamburg and three days later they will play Estonia.
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