It has all come down to this. On Sunday evening at 7.45pm GMT Portugal and Netherlands will contest the UEFA Nations League final at the Estadio do Dragao, the home of FC Porto. The stands will be packed with fans cheering on The Navigators and many experts believe that will give Fernando Santos’ team a cutting edge in what should be a gripping contest.
The finale will be screened live on TV to every football loving nation in the world and this is a chance for both teams to lay down a marker ahead of next year’s European Championship. Portugal and Holland have been thoroughly impressive throughout this Nations League tournament, but it will all count for nothing if they then fall flat at the final hurdle. No one remembers the team that finished second in major competition.
Bookies Back the Home Win
Followers of the beautiful game are in for a treat on Sunday and the fact there’s not a lot of football taking place this summer should result in a bumper audience, both at the Dragon Stadium and watching the live pictures. Great news for armchair fans and major bookmakers put on a spread to ensure punters are catered for too. Have your say on the match winner, to lift the trophy, both teams to score, Asian handicap, correct score, total goals, corners, cards, and much more besides. There’s something for everyone in this game.
This match looks, on paper, to be a real pick-em contest, but traders have had their say and price Portugal as firm favourites, although there’s not an awful lot in it at this stage. The home win is 31/20 with Unibet and that’s market best price at the time of writing. Sure to be popular with punters who value support from the stands. Victory for Holland would come as no major upset and backers can get their hands on a tantalising 21/10 when getting their cash down at Betfred. Again, that’s market best price. Can’t split them? Ladbrokes’ 23/10 for a draw is the standout quote.
Ronaldo is Genius
Portugal were first to book their place in Sunday’s final with a stunning 3-1 win over Switzerland. The final score suggests a comfortable outing for the victors, but it was anything but. In reality, they needed the skills of Juventus attacker Cristiano Ronaldo to pull them out of a hole. The former Man Utd and Real Madrid player scored a jaw-dropping hat-trick and that was achieved despite CR7 having, what appeared to be, an off-night. He wasn’t at the level we have come to expect from him over the years, but he had enough about him to take the chances that came his way.
Cristiano broke the deadlock with a superb goal on 25 minutes and that swung things in his team’s favour. They took that advantage into the break and looked good value to build on it but were rocked by a surprise, yet fully deserved, equaliser by Rodriguez just before the hour. With the tie locked at 1-1 heading into the dying minutes, Ronaldo hit his second of the evening with 88 on the clock before rounding off the treble and sending Portugal through on 90 minutes. Much was made in the media of those talents at a time in his career when many expected him to be slowing down. Manager Fernando Santos was certainly grateful for the contribution, labelling the performance genius. That looked close to the mark.
Holland Show Their Fitness
Holland also booked their place in the decider thanks to a 3-1 win, passing England in another tense semi-final, but they needed extra-time to get past Gareth Southgate’s side. The Three Lions got their noses in front when Rashford was fouled in the box by Matthijs de Ligt on 32 minutes. The scorer got up, dusted himself off and showed his bottle when slotting home the resulting penalty. It was a goal England deserved and one that saw them lead at the interval, but they were unable to hold onto that advantage. Having finished fourth at the World Cup, they were about to fall flat at another semi.
It took until the 73rd minute for Oranje to get themselves level and they had de Ligt to thank for the equaliser. 1-1 remained the score until the final whistle, forcing the sides into another half hour of action. It has been a long season for Europe’s elite players, especially with the English Premier League having four teams in the final of the Champions League and Europa League. It showed in extra-time and Holland came out on top. Walker suffered the misfortune of knocking the ball into his own net on 97 minutes and Promes made sure with the winner on 114.
Stats Suggest We’ll Get Goals
Portugal and Netherlands have met only 13 times in the past, with the head-to-head stats reading 7-2 in Portugal’s favour, with four matches ending in a draw. That’s surprising, given how popular Holland have been over the years, but they have the chance to close the gap and prove they are a nation heading in the right direction again. They did hammer their opponents 3-0 when the sides last crossed paths in March of last year, the goals coming from Depay, Babel and van Dijk.
The last three games involving these sides sit at an even split of one win each and one draw. That explains why the betting markets are so competitive for Sunday’s renewal. Those eager to avoid picking a winner will be interested to learn both teams have scored in two of the last three and a repeat performance has been marked up as a 17/20 shot by William Hill. Extra-time and penalties is a possibility, meaning the ‘to lift the trophy’ market could come in hands. Portugal are 7/10, Holland 21/20, both quotes taken from the bet365 website.