56 min It’s been a cracking start to the second half, as if both teams can’t bear the thought of extra-time. Depay wriggles away from Fonte in the area and cuts the ball back. It hits somebody – no idea who – and is pushed behind by Rui Patricio. Facebook Twitter
54 min “Why do English people boo Virgil van Dijk?” asks Peter Giesen. “We are totally puzzled here in the Netherlands. Why are English people even in the Dragao? Is this some sort of desperate, drunken last stance before they finally leave the EU?”
53 min Bernardo Silva’s wicked inswinging corner from the right clears everyone in the centre of goal and is met by Fonte at the far post. His downward header is blocked, I think by one of his own teammates, and Cillessen gets to the loose ball a fraction before Fonte. Facebook Twitter
50 min Depay slides a through pass to Wijnaldum, who looks offside but is allowed to continue. He tries to chip Rui Patricio, who claws the ball away with his left hand – and then the flag does go up against Wijnaldum. All that blood pressure for nothing.
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“Hi Rob,” says Breen Ó Conchubhair. “Who is winning the Ronaldo v Virgil Van D competition?”
Half time: Portugal 0-0 Netherlands
45 min Blind wins a corner for the Netherlands, their first of the match. It’s headed clear by Danilo and Portugal break promisingly. Eventually Semedo’s shot, which was going miles wide, deflects off van Dijk for another corner.
42 min “Either the German commentator on ZDF doesn’t seem to deem the action worthy of commentary, or there’s a technical glitch, but he’s been silent for at least 10 minutes now,” says Michael Dear. “Given the appalling state of football commentary in this country, though, I’m just as happy to hear the crowd noise, the occasional sounds of players shouting instructions to each other, or the thud of feet hitting the ball.”
39 min “What a shame it is that Pepe isn’t fit to
play in this final,” says JR in Illinois. “A real damn shame. It’s so
sad that we are missing out on the opportunity to witness his delicate
skill and unrivalled, impeccable sportsmanship. Terribly unfortunate, we
are. Did I mention what a shame it is?”
38 min Make that five shots. Bernardo Silva shoves an inviting little pass back to Bruno Fernandes, who sweeps over the bar from inside the D.
37 min Bernardo Silva plays a nice little pass to Bruno Fernandes, whose shot on the run from the edge of the area is deflected behind by van Dijk. Fernandes certainly isn’t shot shy; I think that was his fourth of the half. Facebook Twitter
35 min Ronaldo plays the ball back to Guedes, whose low shot from the edge of the area takes a deflection before van Dijk boots it away. Portugal have been much more threatening in attack. Facebook Twitter
33 min Dumfries runs 50 yards down the right. He looks up at all the blue shirts waiting in the middle – and then he decides to play a short pass, the most abysmal pass I have seen in my entire life. I’m not even going to dignify it with a description.
31 min For once, the stats are a perfect summary of the game. The Netherlands have had 60 per cent of the possession and no shots at goal. Portugal have had 40 per cent and six shots. Facebook Twitter
30 min Bruno Fernandes, on the right, whacks an awkward, wobbling shot from distance that is palmed round by Cillessen. From the resulting short corner, Ronaldo flashes a header straight at the keeper, though he’d been flagged offside. Facebook Twitter
28 min Ronaldo’s shot from the right of the box deflects wide off van Dijk. The resuling corner is swung towards Fonte, whose header from near the penalty spot is a bit tame and comfortably saved by Cillessen. That was a chance. In fact it hit his shoulder, which would explain why it looked so tame. While that was happening, de Ligt took one in the face from Dias. I think it was accidental.
27 min “Hello Rob,” says Kári Tulinius. “Viasat, the station broadcasting the Nations League here in Finland, certainly doesn’t seem to care very much for the final. The entire game so far has been shown from a camera high in the stands behind the Dutch goal, showing pretty much the entire pitch at all times. It’s interesting to watch the game that way, but it’s hard to tell what goes on when the ball’s near the Portuguese goal.”
25 min Wijnaldum is fouled 40 yards from goal by Guerreiro. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give such incident the time of day but I’m starting to feel guilty about the lack of regular updates. I swear to you: nothing is happening. Facebook Twitter
19 min Ronaldo is flattened by de Ligt, not for the first time in the game. This is the bit where I tell you that de Ligt was four years old when Ronaldo made his Portugal debut.
18 min “Mrs Dony and Master Dony are both in bed, I refuse to pay for Sky Sports (and goodness knows there’s nothing else on at the moment), and I’m currently on a diet, meaning I’m trying not to eat or drink anything unnecessary,” weeps Matt Dony. “So, my Sunday evening is being spent lying very soberly on the sofa watching a recording of the original Broadway production of Into The Woods. It’s come to this. No pressure, Rob, but if your MBM isn’t sufficiently entertaining, then I can’t guarantee I’ll see tomorrow. Might just disappear in a sad puddle of lower-middle-age (still south of 40!) ennui.”
I could do something wacky if you’d like.
17 min Fernandes plays a dreadful pass straight to Bergwijn, who charges at the heart of the Portugal defence from the halfway line. He gets to the edge of the area and tries to scurry past the last man Dias, who stays on his feet and makes a fine tackle.
15 min Portugal are playing like the away side, as they did so successfully for much of Euro 2016. They are so well organised in defence, and thus far the Netherlands haven’t been able to get behind them. Facebook Twitter
5 min “Impossible to see a shot of the Portuguese manager and not immediately think of Jack Straw,” says Charles Antaki. “Unfortunately.”
Well, it was possible to do so, but it isn’t any longer. Thanks a lot.
4 min A very long ball is driven towards Bernardo Silva, who takes it down beautifully on the chest before falling over just inside the area after a challenge from Blind and van Dijk. Portugal appeal unsuccessfully for a penalty. Van Dijk did put hands on Silva, but probably not enough for it to be a foul. Facebook Twitter
3 min It looks like Portugal are playing 4-3-3, with Guedes on the left of the attack and Bernardo Silva on the right. Ronaldo has just given the referee a rollocking for not giving him a free-kick. Facebook Twitter
2 min “I saw the Maradona movie today and I’ll confess I was disappointed,” says Gary Naylor. “The story is more one of addiction (and there’s a sense in which every addict’s story is the same story) and not so much the one of outrageous genius. What little football included, comprised footage shot close up with no sense of his peerless domination of space through technique, vision and personality.”
1 min Peep peep! Portugal, in red, kick off from left to right. The Netherlands are in their away strip. This polarised blue away shirt pays homage to the team’s classic 1988 changed colours, while a deep royal blue geometric pattern celebrates ‘Total Football’—the pioneering style of play which earned them reverential status in the ‘70s.
There’s a wonderful atmosphere in Porto; this feels like a Proper Game. Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the Portugal team are belting out the national anthem as if the match depends on it.
“Ronaldo will score and Portugal will win 2-1,” says Mayokun Mesole. “He’s been doing this for years tonight will not be different.”
There isn’t a particle of my being that will be surprised if that does happen. Amazing to think that once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, he was seen by many as a big-game bottler. Facebook Twitter
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Portugal (possible 4-D-2) Rui Patricio; Semedo, Dias, Fonte, Guerreiro; Danilo; Fernandes, Carvalho; B Silva; Guedes, Ronaldo.
Substitutes: Sa, Beto, Cancelo, Moutinho, Sousa, Jota, R Silva, Neves, Rui, Pizzi, Felix.
Netherlands (definite 4-3-3) Cillessen; Dumfries, de Ligt, van Dijk, Blind; De Roon, F de Jong, Wijnaldum; Bergwijn, Depay, Babel.
Substitutes: Vermeer, Bizot, Hateboer, Ake, Propper, Promes, van Aanholt, de Vrij, Strootman, Vilhena, L de Jong, van de Beek.
Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain).
It’s a question that philosophers will ponder until the end of time: what does it all mean? Why, truly, have we all been received the gift of the Nations League? I’ve no idea how much this inaugural Nations League final between Portugal and the Netherlands matters to those involved, or where it registers on the gloryometer, and that feels a little strange.
We know it won’t mean as much to the winners as Euro 2016 and Euro 88 respectively, but the evidence of the semi-finals are that it matters more than we thought it would when the idea was conceived. Winning it would certainly mean more to Portugal than the SkyDome Cup. Whichever side lifts the trophy tonight, it will be a good story. Portugal could win as hosts, something they failed to do at Euro 2004, and Cristiano Ronaldo could add to his already ludicrous list of honours. How many Nations Leagues have you won, “Lionel”?
If the Netherlands win, it will be a neat way to erase their lost years after the 2014 World Cup, and could act as an Anglo-Scottish Cup for a young team that have captured the imagination as only a Dutch side can.
We will also get to watch, among others, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt. I’m not sure what it means, but I do know there are worse ways to spend a Sunday night.
Kick off is at 7.45pm.