The first UEFA Nations League winner will be decided on Sunday. Portugal and Netherlands will meet to decide the inaugural champion in a rematch of one of the most infamous games in soccer history. At the 2006 World Cup, these two countries met in the Round of 16 in a game that is now known as the Battle of Nuremberg. There were four red cards and 16 yellow cards doled out during the match, a record number for any FIFA-sanctioned international tournament.
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Portugal vs. Netherlands
Date and Time: June 9, 2019, 2:45 p.m. ET
Location: Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal
US Television Coverage: ESPN, Univision
Betting Line: Portugal PK and -0.5, O/U 2.5
The Oranje may have improved more than any other national team in the world over the last 12 months. Missing out on the 2018 World Cup after making it onto the podium in 2010 and 2014 led to some soul searching, and the Dutch are back to playing the thrilling football that led to people around the world sporting the Orange in the 1970s and 1980. The Netherlands beat out France and Germany to make it to the UEFA Nations League Final, and they knocked off England 3-1 in extra time. The Dutch fired 29 shots and 14 shots on goal in the match, and the Three Lions’ back line finally collapsed in the final 30 minutes.
The Navigators are looking to win their second major international competition in three years. Portugal were able to win their first ever major title by besting France for the 2016 European Championship, and they will have the advantage of being on home soil for this attempt. They finished ahead of Italy and Poland to earn a spot in the final four, but they were somewhat fortunate on Wednesday. Despite a 3-1 final score in favor of the hosts, the Swiss had a multitude of great chances. If Switzerland had a good striker, they could have netted four or five goals and pulled off the upset.
Portugal Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo has to be the player to focus on for Portugal. Ronaldo notched his 53rd career hat trick in his country’s win over Switzerland, and he showed what a world class striker is capable of doing with half chances. Ronaldo now has 88 goals in his international career, and his tallies in the 88th and 90th minutes were beauties. However, he will face a much more difficult opponent in the Dutch, as Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt constitute one of the best center back tandems in the world.
Netherlands Player to Watch
Matthijs de Ligt giveth and taketh away. The 19-year-old conceded England’s lone goal in the first half, giving away possession to Marcus Rashford after a poor touch and then bringing him down in the box to set up a penalty. However, he made amends by tying the game midway through the second half. He made a beautiful run off a corner kick to head in the game-tying goal, showing how dangerous he can be on set pieces.
UEFA Nations League Final Free Picks
Portugal’s back line won’t have its most veteran member for the final. Pepe went down with a fractured shoulder blade on Wednesday, and that means a Portuguese back line that had trouble stopping Switzerland will now have to shore things up without their leader. Even though they have the benefit of playing at home, I think that will be too tough of a task, and I think the Dutch will go down as the first UEFA Nations League winner.
UEFA Nations League Final Prediction: Netherlands 2, Portugal 1
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