Portugal 1-0 Netherlands: Talking points as Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes steal the show

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Goncalo Guedes celebrates his winner against the Netherlands

Portugal added the inaugural Nations League title to their Euro 2016 triumph as Goncalo Guedes’s strike on the hour won an underwhelming final 1-0 against the Netherlands in Porto on Sunday.

Valencia winger Guedes proved the match winner as his shot had too much power for Jasper Cillessen in the Netherlands goal.

Here are the talking points from Porto.

Portugal The European Tournament Team

Portugal in the 21st century are quite the European tournament team.

They are the current European kings and added the Nations League jewel to their crown having been third twice and runners-up once in five editions of the Euros since 2000.

While their players might be pretty, their football isn’t, but it is certainly effective.

Guedes was this tournament’s Eder, scoring the sole final goal in a similar sort of fashion to his compatriot, with a powerful shot which really should have been stopped.

But while this current side possesses much more quality than the Euro 2016 winners, their style hasn’t evolved much.

They remain a peek-a-boo team, happy to sit in and contain pressure before exploding on the counter.

Whenever the Dutch backed off to give them time on the ball, they lacked ideas, but out of possession and then on the break, the Portuguese were so dangerous.

Fernando Santos is constantly chastised in Portugal, and rightly so because with this talented crop they could be so much more.

But then Portugal have won the last two major European trophies, and as France proved at the World Cup, it’s substance over style when it comes to winning titles in the international arena.

Dutch fatigue

Memphis Depay

Memphis Depay

Tired minds, tired bodies. It’s easy to offer up the obvious excuse of 120 minutes against England having played a day later than Portugal, too, but it’s legitimate and its consequence was there to see on Sunday.

The Dutch are hallmarked by speed, both of thought and feet, but an energy-siphoning season for their star players and the exhausting semi-final encounter meant the electric flow was switched off.

To Portugal’s credit, they were set up to frustrate with their signature block-and-counter style. Yet the fact the Dutch failed to register a single shot until the 65th minute is evidence of their fatigue.

Creation from midfield was lacking, there was no incision from the forward line – Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay were both woeful – and the only route into the Portugal half was for a long time from the long diagonal passes of Virgil van Dijk.

There was barely any movement off the ball and when on it, the passing was prosaic. But it is a lifeless performance in isolation, a team grayed out, one matching their changed strip and feeling blue as opposed to their usual Oranje zest. It makes sense to attribute that to the work load.

BB GUN Attack

Bruno Fernandes in action against the Netherlands

Bruno Fernandes in action against the Netherlands

There’s an enticing proclivity to focus on the youthful exuberance of the flying Dutch, yet Portugal have their own thrilling offspring who must not be ignored.

Indeed, Bruno Fernandes (22) and Bernardo Silva (24) have shown throughout this tournament that they will be a special pair for Portugal in the coming years.

On Sunday, the twin buzzing red bees searched for weak points in the Dutch defence and were a constant hive of activity in the final third.

It’s easy to see why Pep Guardiola is reportedly keen to add Sporting midfielder Fernandes to Manchester City.

He and Silva were incredibly difficult to play against, blending their positions on the right side or moving across the pitch to pick up the ball and create space.

In the first half alone, Fernandes had five shots at goal and while no goal was profited, the conviction in each strike was impressive.

There was clever innovation elsewhere as well, a sharp chop back followed by a delicious outside-of-the-boot pass to a galloping Nelson Semedo created an opening, and the same connection a danger when Fernandes intelligently turned the ball around the corner when facing his goal.

Silva was all action, too, fast to press and slippery in the box, it was his cut back to Guedes which opened the scoring.

They made the Dutch look slow, and that’s a huge testament to their quality.

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