By Kunle Adedoyin
Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, is the winner of the maiden edition of the UEFA Nations League as it defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in the final played at the Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal on Sunday.
Portugal, hosting the semi-final and final of this league’s playoff which included the four countries that topped their respective seeded groups, won another trophy, courtesy of Goncalo Guedes second half strike, to add to its Euro 2016 triumph.
The game was billed as a contest between five-time Balon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo and Netherland’s rock-solid defender who has not been dribbled past in 58 games this season, Virgil van Dijk, but the duo would keep out of each other’s way as Portugal made home advantage count.
While Ronald Koeman’s revitalized Netherlands, in their first final since losing the 2010 World Cup to Spain in South Africa, caressed the ball and hugged possession in the first half without a shot on goal, Portugal with Ronaldo looked more threatening, stinging the palms of the goalkeeper on more than one occasion as they countered with ferocity in the first period .
Fernando Santos’ Portugal would finally take the lead on the hour mark through forward, Guedes, who finished off a move he started off from close to the half way line.
The Valencia FC of Spain player’s pass located Man City playmaker, Bernardo Silva, and the player of the tournament threaded an inch-perfect reverse pass which found Guedes in acres of space. The 22-year-old striker powered a shot which ‘keeper, Jasper Cillessen could only divert into the net for what proved to be the winning goal.
Portugal ‘keeper, Rui Patricio, stopped Memphis Depay’s downward header from restoring parity for the Dutch, and with Ronaldo leading from the front, urging teammates to stay focused, Portugal saw out the game to etch its name into the silver cup as its first winners.