As it happened - Portugal beats Netherlands to win to Nations League title

Tune in for live updates and commentary from the Nations League 2019 final between Portugal and Netherlands played at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk will be the key men to watch out for when Portugal hosts Netherlands in the Nations League final on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Good evening and welcome to Sportstar's live blog of the Nations League 2019 final between Portugal and Netherlands played at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto.

 

 

 

12:15am: GAME ON!

12:10am: "It's our country: my family is Portuguese, my friends, too. I grew up in Portugal, so it's special to put on the shirt of the national team. And obviously, the chance to fight for trophies makes it even more special — like it was in Euro 2004 and Euro 2016, and how this competition will be now," says Ronaldo. The charismatic attacker will look to win his second title in national colors today.

12:05am: An interesting stat here -  Portugal has only lost two of its 13 previous meetings with Netherlands in all competitions (W7 D4), and has never lost to the Dutch in five meetings on home soil (W3 D2). Can Ronaldo and co. hold on to that record tonight?

 

12am: Ronald Koeman is pretty certain that van Dijk and de Ligt can stop Ronaldo today. Do you agree with him?

11:45pm: Line ups:

Portugal boss Fernando Santos makes three changes from his side's semifinal victory over Switzerland. Pepe is ruled out through an injury sustained in that game, while Neves and Felix drop to the bench. Fonte, Pereira and Guedes start in their places.

Portugal XI (4-3-1-2): Rui Patricio; Nelson Semedo, Ruben Dias, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Bruno Fernandes, Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho; Bernardo Silva; Goncalo Guedes, Cristiano Ronaldo

Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman sticks with the same Netherlands team that started the win over England.

Netherlands XI (4-3-3): Jasper Cillessen; Denzel Dumfries, Matthijs de Ligt, Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind; Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum; Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay, Ryan Babel

MATCH PREVIEW

What should have been a routine piece of play and the familiar sight of Matthijs de Ligt launching another Netherlands attack collapsed swiftly into a surprising farce.

The commanding Ajax centre-back let a pass from Marten de Roon slide under his foot and, in trying to atone for the mistake he clumsily fouled Marcus Rashford. The Manchester United forward gave England a 1-0 lead in the Nations League Finals semifinal from the penalty spot.

The fact the mistake jarred so much, that it felt so shocking to see De Ligt err in such a manner, actually underlined how swiftly the teenage defender and his country have developed from a galling nadir.

On his international debut against Bulgaria in March 2017, a 17-year-old De Ligt was thrown into a high-stakes World Cup qualifier and floundered. A 2-0 defeat meant the Dutch would miss out on their second consecutive major tournament. Head coach Danny Blind paid with his job.

Now 19, but playing with composure and maturity beyond his years, the youngster simply got back to work in a gutsy display in Guimaraes – heading the equaliser and helping Ronald Koeman's side to a 3-1 win as defensive mistakes in extra time became an exclusively English preserve.

"For a 19-year-old he's mentally so strong and I think you could see that straight away," said fellow defender Nathan Ake, who watched events unfold from the bench at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques.

"The first action after [Rashford's goal] he dribbles with the ball again, no problem. I think everyone was happy that he scored."

De Ligt and Barcelona-bound midfielder Frenkie de Jong were the pillars of Ajax's stunning run to the Champions League semifinals and they look set to keep their national team in good health for a generation.

Beating World Cup semifinalists England to book a place in the inaugural Nations League showpiece against host Portugal on Sunday follows convincing victories over France and Germany – the reigning world champions and the team they succeeded – during the group stages.

If the descent from coming third at the 2014 World Cup was worryingly rapid for the Netherlands, the subsequent rise has come at a similarly steep gradient, with an instantly recognisable and pleasing style of play working its way back towards the top of the global game.

"We try that," said midfielder Donny van de Beek in Guimaraes when reflecting on whether performances under Koeman hark back the classically Dutch school of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff.

"We try always to play football. Sometimes it's not always possible. You also have to fight."

That balance was skewed too far towards the "fight" side of the equation under Bert van Marwijk and Louis van Gaal, whose efficient sides at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup were never likely to be darlings of the neutrals in the way Koeman's might become.

READ: England errors hand Oranje Nations League final spot

The coach himself has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in his reputation and was recently linked to the hotseat at former club Barcelona – a situation laughably implausible when his Everton reign staggered towards an unedifying conclusion in 2017.

Koeman and Netherlands seemingly found one another at their lowest ebbs and now the sky is the limit.

"I think we're progressing really well. There are young players mixed with experienced players," Ake said.

"The coach is very good, very strict. We know what we're doing at the moment and which direction we're going to go.

"Everything is quite clear. What we have to do now is keep going."

Portugal and the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo will provide a stern test of Netherlands' ambitions and enter the final as favourites. Then again, France, Germany and any of Ajax's Champions League knockout opponents will tell you this crop of Dutch players delight in overturning the odds.