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Preview: Portugal vs. Netherlands - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's UEFA Nations League final between Portugal and the Netherlands, including team news and predicted lineups.

Portugal will face the Netherlands in the inaugural UEFA Nations League final on Sunday night, with both teams recording 3-1 victories in their semi-finals.

Portugal overcame Switzerland on Wednesday night courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, before the Netherlands moved past England in a eventful last-four clash 24 hours later.


Portugal

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Switzerland in the UEFA Nations League on June 5, 2019.© Reuters

It did appear that Wednesday's semi-final between Portugal and Switzerland would be heading for extra-time as the two teams were locked at 1-1 entering the final stages of normal time. Ronaldo had other ideas, though, and scored twice in the latter stages to record a 3-1 victory for Fernando Santos's side.

The fact that Portugal have had an extra 24 hours to recover, and also did not have to play extra time, should stand them in good stead heading into the final. The Netherlands did keep the ball for long spells of their clash with England but still had to put a lot into the second semi-final.

Portugal have disappointed in the World Cup since finishing sixth at the 2006 competition, being eliminated twice in the round of 16 and also exiting in the group stages in 2014. The Iberian nation are the reigning European champions, however, having triumphed in France 2016.

Their Nations League campaign started with a 1-0 win over Italy last September, before moving onto six points in the group with a 3-2 success in Poland. Santos's side drew their next two against Italy and Poland but still finished top of the section to advance to the semi-finals, where Switzerland were dispatched.

There is absolutely no question that the Nations League has provided more entertainment than international friendlies. However, a number of club managers will be concerned by the fact that their players are not receiving too much of a rest with pre-season for the majority of clubs starting in the early stages of next month.

Santos will not regard that as his problem, though, and will be fully focused on landing the first ever Nations League title. The overall winner does not receive automatic qualification for Euro 2020, but there is prize money of around £9m for the team that emerges victorious on Sunday night, in addition to the trophy.

Portugal have actually drawn their first two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Ukraine and Serbia to sit in third position in Group B. However, they should have more than enough to progress through the group in order to defend their European title at the 2020 competition.

Netherlands will certainly be wary of Ronaldo on Sunday night, but an extremely talented attack also includes Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, who have both been linked with big-money moves away from Sporting Lisbon and Benfica respectively in this summer's transfer window.

Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva has just come off the back of a wonderful season for Manchester City and the attacker will be key to Portugal's chances of lifting the first ever Nations League trophy.

Recent form: WWDDW
Recent form (all competitions): WDDDDW


Netherlands

Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt scores against England in the UEFA Nations League semi-final on June 6, 2019© Reuters

It does seem incredible to think that the Netherlands have not been present at the finals of a major football tournament since the 2014 World Cup. They did not qualify for either Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, but the team appear to be heading in the right direction once again under Ronald Koeman.

An extremely tough Nations League group paired Netherlands with Germany and France. Koeman's side collected seven points from their four matches, however, to top the section on goal difference. Finishing ahead of two of the powerhouses in world football would have done wonders for Holland's confidence.

England were far from their best in Thursday's semi-final but the Three Lions still posed a huge threat. Marcus Rashford sent Gareth Southgate's side ahead on the night, with a mistake from the highly-rated De Ligt handing England a penalty in the first period.

De Ligt equalised to force extra time, though, before an own goal from Kyle Walker and late Quincy Promes strike saw the Netherlands record a 3-1 win. In truth, it was no more than the team in orange deserved as they had dominated the possession for long spells against a side that fell in the semi-finals of a tournament once again.

The 1988 European Championship winners actually entered the clash with England off the back of a 3-2 loss to Germany in their second qualifier for Euro 2020. A total of three points has left them in second position in their section, with Northern Ireland currently leading the way with two wins from two.

It would be another huge blow for the country if they failed to make it to the finals of Euro 2020, but it is difficult to imagine that they will not be present due to Koeman's work since arriving. There is arguably not a finer centre-back partnership in world football than Virgil van Dijk and De Ligt, while new Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong showed his incredible potential with a wonderful performance against England.

It would probably be fair to say that the Netherlands are still lacking serious talent in the final third, though, with Ryan Babel's presence in a team a strong indicator of their options further forward. Memphis Depay has grown at Lyon but remains inconsistent, while Steven Bergwijn is yet to score for the national team.

There is something happening with the Dutch national side once again, though, and landing the Nations League title this weekend would be another huge step in the right direction. As mentioned, though, the quick turnaround from the semi-final and additional 30 minutes means that fatigue will surely be an issue.

Recent form: LWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): DWDWLW


Team News

Benfica's Ruben Dias celebrates with Portugal teammate Pepe in the UEFA Nations League in October, 2018© Reuters

Portugal boss Santos could decide to select the same XI that started against Switzerland on Wednesday night.

As a result, Ronaldo is again expected to be joined by Felix and Bernardo Silva in attack, with Fernandes playing a withdrawn midfield role alongside William Carvalho and Ruben Neves.

Jose Fonte for Pepe in central defence is perhaps one change that could happen, while Goncalo Guedes and Joao Moutinho came off the bench in the semi-final and are options in midfield.

Santos is unlikely to change a winning team, though, and there could again be eyes on central defender Ruben Dias, who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United.

As for the Netherlands, it seems likely that Koeman will make a couple of alterations following the clash with England.

The goalkeeper and back four should remain unchanged, but Donny van de Beek could replace Marten de Roon in the middle of the park, while Promes was impressive off the bench against the Three Lions and could come in for the ineffective Babel.

Depay should again lead the line, though, with Koeman not exactly blessed with options at centre-forward.

Kevin Strootman and Davy Propper both came off the bench in the semi-final to boost the midfield, but neither is likely to earn a starting role with Georginio Wijnaldum set to keep his place despite playing a lot of football over the last week.

Portugal possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Semedo, Dias, Pepe, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Neves, Fernandes; B Silva; Ronaldo, Felix

Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Cillessen; Dumfries, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Blind; F de Jong, Van de Beek, Wijnaldum; Promes, Memphis, Bergwijn


Head To Head

Sunday will be the 15th meeting between the two national teams, with Portugal leading the head-to-head seven wins to Netherlands' two, while the remaining five games have finished level.

Netherlands recorded a 3-0 victory when the pair last met in an international friendly in March 2018, but Portugal ran out 2-1 winners in their last competitive meeting in the last-16 stage of Euro 2012.

Portugal also beat Holland in the semi-finals of Euro 2004 and the last-16 stage of the 2006 World Cup.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands

It is a very, very difficult one to call. It would not be a surprise to see either side triumph, but the extra rest for Portugal and indeed home advantage could prove decisive.



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Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring for Netherlands on November 19, 2018
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ROWING
· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
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RUGBY SEVENS
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· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

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