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Portugal beat the Dutch to win the inaugural Nations League trophy

Portugal beat the Dutch to win the inaugural Nations League trophy

Portugal secured a 1-0 victory over The Netherlands in Porto to win their second European trophy in three years, making them undisputed Kings of Europe.

Current holders of both the European Championship and the UEFA Nations League, fans of Portuguese football have become accustomed to tasting success, having previously not won a single trophy in their history before the year 2016.

Now though, three years on, there was further ecstasy in the country of Portugal, as a relatively comfortable victory over The Netherlands was secured in the Estadio do Dragao with the strong home support in full voice throughout the game.

Gonçalo Guedes was ultimately the hero on the night, his long-range second-half strike proving too powerful for Dutch keeper Cillessen to keep out and sparking jubilation from the Portugal players and fans alike as they struck the all-important first - and only - goal of the match.

And Holland had very little in way of reply to Portugal’s goal, struggling to truly test Portugal who often looked more likely to go on to extend their lead rather than get pegged back.

The match itself took time to get going; after the Portuguese anthem was belted out in typically joyous fashion, that was one of the highlights of a first half that was somewhat lacking in clear-cut chances, although Bruno Fernandes did have two decent long-distance strikes that came relatively close to opening the scoring.

At the other end though, for all of the Dutch dominance in terms of keeping hold of the ball, it was pretty much possession with no intention for large spells, Holland seeing their fair share of possession but only mustering one very poor shot - which was blocked at source and going well wide - compared to Portugal’s 12.

The second half livened up though and Portugal were slowly growing into the game. Often happy to see a Dutch side that lacked clear goal-scoring potential keep the ball, Portugal were looking to play on the counter, and demonstrated some very well worked attacking moves too.

That said, The Netherlands undoubtedly had one the chances of the half when Wijnaldum went one-on-one with Rui Patricio, forcing a brilliant one-handed save from the most capped Portuguese goalkeeper in history. It wouldn’t have counted anyway though, as the offside flag went up shortly afterwards.

However, other than that one opportunity, Portugal snuffed out every Dutch attack that came their way, with Jose Fonte and Ruben Dias happy to header away anything that came into the box, while, on the occasions where Holland did manage to muster a shot at goal, Patricio was always there to match it.

And it was no surprise that Portugal were the side that eventually grabbed the goal, when Bernardo Silva and Gonçalo Guedes linked up brilliantly on the half hour mark to put Portugal in front. Cue wild celebrations in the stadium and around the country as Portugal were heading towards victory on their home turf - something they failed to achieve 15 years earlier at Euro 2004.

And sure enough, although the Dutch did have a few chances of their own in the final 20 minutes, Portugal stood firm, and held on to their 1-0 win to lift the first ever Nations League trophy - a result that truly epitomises the philosophy of resourceful coach Fernando Santos.

Some have suggested the Nations League is far from a major tournament and doesn’t mean much, although the endeavour and passion shown from all four sides that reached this stage of the competition, as well as the excitement amongst the fans, illustrated that this tournament wasn’t just something to make up the numbers.

And the delight on the faces of the Portugal players, many of whom also tasted European success three years earlier, showed that they too valued the achievement - and the addition of yet another trophy into Portugal’s increasingly respectable trophy cabinet.

Portugal - the reigning European - and Nations League - champions. Something to savour for the small country on the edge of Europe, who are no longer dark horses, but genuine contenders for future competitions.

Goncalo Guedes. Photo author: Анна Нэсси.  License link .

Goncalo Guedes. Photo author: Анна Нэсси. License link.

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