Portugal win first ever UEFA Nations League as Ronaldo revels in the glory


Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the final of the first ever UEFA Nations League to crown only their 2nd ever international trophy and both have been won with Cristiano Ronaldo in the side.

The win which was deserved only underlined Portugal’s status, after all they did win the last European Championships in 2016, but this win will sit nicely with a team that have to surely be regarded as one of the favourites to win Euro 2020 next year.

While the European Championships remain much more important than the Nations League this was still an incredibly special night for Portugal given that the final was in Portugal. Ronaldo was part of the Portuguese team who in the 2004 final lost against Greece in what was seen as a shock 1-0 defeat. This happened in Portugal in front of their home fans, so even though this isn’t another European Championship it was a UEFA final and surely meant a lot to Ronaldo and his teammates.

But it wasn’t Ronaldo who was the goal scoring hero that went to Goncalo Guedes who struck what turned out to be the winning goal on the hour mark. Portugal deserved to win the game and had more clear cut chances, but they also looked more hungry and determined for the win.

As for the Netherlands, reaching a final marks a huge improvement for them, after reaching the 2010 World Cup final the Orange as they are so famously called have really struggled this decade and failed to qualify for major tournaments. They look to be back on the right track, but they will have to be less naïve in the future if they are to remain consistent and win trophies.

The match was very telling on how one team wanted the win and the other in the Netherlands felt that their semi-final victory over England where they won the match 3-1 after being a goal down was their personal final.

Ronaldo played his part too as he usually does and was seen in defence giving orders- when one sees Ronaldo like this just like in the Euro 2016 final when he was forced off with injury, but supported the players from the side lines one sees a potential future coach in the player.

And what of the UEFA Nations League? Has it been a success? Well in a nutshell yes and it does give the football fan something extra to cheer about and watch after the domestic season has ended. What is clear is that when it comes down to the semi-finals and final we are not watching friendly exhibition games anymore, all teams at that point want to win, that is the positive of it. However it still has a long way to go in convincing some of the bigger nations in the group stages of the competition to get their best game on, some like Italy and Spain didn’t seem too bothered. With time that might just change.


Goal shy Eder looks to rediscover goal scoring form for Portugal

Euro 2016

Despite having played the entirety of Lille’s three Ligue 1 games this season, Portugal’s Euro 2016 final match winner Eder has not yet scored, as the 28-year-old striker intensely searches to rediscover his goal scoring touch.

Eder retains place in Portugal squad

The former Swansea City player is set to continue his efforts to do that whilst on international duty, as he has been named in Fernando Santos’ 24-man squad for Portugal’s upcoming friendly with Gibraltar and 2018 World Cup qualifier against Switzerland.

As well as Eder, 19 other members of Portugal’s Euro 2016 players are included in Santos’ current squad, the average of which is 26-and-a-half years old.  Whilst the youngest member of Santos’ party is Renato Sanches at 19-year-old, the eldest is the 34-year-old Bruno Alves.

Furthermore the Cagliari centre back is also the third most capped player in Portugal’s current squad as he has played 86 times for his country, with Joao Moutinho and Nani having made four and seventeen more appearances than Alves respectively.

The Selecao’s record appearance holder and top goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo is one of three players from Portugal’s triumphant Euro 2016 squad set to miss the country’s upcoming games, with the other two being the unattached Ricardo Carvalho and Vieirinha.

Relative to Ronaldo’s omission the Real Madrid forward is still trying to recover from the knee injury which he sustained during the first half of Portugal’s 1-0 Euro 2016 final victory over France, with Eder scoring a superb winning goal, whereby he struck a powerful low 25-yard shot beyond the despairing dive of Hugo Lloris.

Eder’s unsensational goal – scoring record

Although Eder’s fourth goal for Portugal, it was his first in a competitive game, since his other three arrived in friendlies against Italy, Norway and Estonia.  Given that he has made 29 appearances for Portugal, Eder’s international goal – scoring record is extremely modest.

As such Eder’s aim is to improve upon that against both Gibraltar and Switzerland, whilst in order to do so it will be necessary for him to rediscover his goal-scoring touch since that has deserted the Guinea Bassau born player during his club Lille’s first three games of the 2016-2017 season.

After joining the French side on loan from Swansea in January, Eder scored six goals in 14 appearances to help Lille finish fifth in Ligue 1 and qualify for this season’s Europa League, in the group stages of which they will play Wolfsburg, Everton and Krasnodar.

Subsequently following his fine form for Lille, Eder signed a permanent four-year contract with Les Dogues, for whom he has performed well so far this season without as yet scoring a goal.

Many attributes to Eder’s game

As a powerful and tenacious centre forward, who is blessed with great aerial strength and touch, Eder possesses an excellent all round game, despite not being a prolific goal scorer at either club or international level.

Nevertheless the quality of his goal against France, along with the manner in which commanded the attention of Les Bleus centre back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti after appearing as a second-half substitute, provided a clear indication that Eder has the potential to lead Portugal’s frontline, which he may be tasked with doing in the games with Gibraltar and Switzerland, given Ronaldo’s absence from those.

Ultimately although Eder does not score regularly, he valuably contributes to both Lille and Portugal’s performances, as the 6ft 3in striker is adept at holding the ball up and bringing team mates into play.

Therefore in addition to aspiring to continue that in Portugal’s next two matches, Eder will also strive to score a first competitive goal, since his Euro 2016 final match – winning goal against France.

Portuguese Euro 2016 hopes rest not only on Ronaldo

Euro 2016

Despite never having won the European Championships in six appearances, Portugal’s record of reaching the semi-finals on three occasions and the final once is nevertheless impressive.

The Selecao squad selected by manager Fernando Santos to build upon that record at Euro 2016 have a magnificent chance of doing so, since it is led by European football’s most outstanding player, whilst being made up of a fine mix of experienced and younger players.

As the country’s record goal-scorer and team’s most influential player, Portugal are ultimately reliant upon Cristiano Ronaldo to help them be successful, however not to the same extent as they have been at previous major international tournaments.  The reason for that is due to the emergence of a wave of superb young Portuguese players as acknowledged by Ronaldo himself.

“Since I have been playing for the national team, there have never been so many high-quality young players available,”  declares the Real-Madrid forward, who is the all the time leading scorer in the history of the European Championship with 26 goals, five of which arrived in qualification for this summer’s finals.

Seven of the young players referred to by Ronaldo, brought in by manager Santos, played important roles in that qualification campaign and are each members of Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad.

Sporting Lisbon’s Joao Mario is a highly talented creative midfielder, whilst both Danilo and William Carvalho are a pair of excellent holding midfielders, with the dynamic midfield trio of Adrien Silva, Andre Gomes and Renato Sanches each possessing a wealth of technical ability.  In addition to the aforementioned midfielders, Rafa Silva is another of Portugal’s current crop of excellent young players, with the 23-year-old Sporting Braga winger only likely to feature at the finals should manager Fernando Santos decide to play a 4-3-3 formation.  In that case, Silva would compete with Nani & Ricardo Quaresma to play in a front three spearheaded by Ronaldo, whose positive influence on the entire Portuguese squad is eloquently summarised by William Carvalho.

“As Portugal’s most experience player he ensures we all have a winning attitude and are at the top of our games,” Carvalho revealed in a recent interview with Pedro Soares of European Sports Media.

Another experienced player who has helped Carvalho and his fellow youngsters seamlessly integrate into Portugal’s senior squad is Joao Moutinho, who continues to play with calmness, composure and wonderful control in the heart of midfield.

Whilst blessed with a rich selection of wonderfully gifted midfield and attacking players, in terms of defenders Portugal are not so well equipped.  38-year-old center back Ricardo Carvalho is set to become the oldest outfield player to ever play at a European Championship finals, with his most likely partner being Real Madrid’s Pepe.  In terms of the full backs available to coach Santos, Benfica’s Eliseu seems to be his preferred choice at left back, with Vierinha favorite to deputize on the right in the absence of the injured Fabio Coentrao.  Whilst far from the strongest back four in international football, coach Santos compensates for that by ensuring his Portuguese side are set-up to defend as a team.

Ultimately fronting that team effort is Ronaldo, who leads by example as he intensely harries and presses opposition defenders.  Nevertheless whilst the 31-year-old talisman is key to Portugal’s chances of progressing to the latter stages of Euro 2016, Santos’ team are not overly dependent upon him to do so as expressed by the manager himself.

“Ronaldo is the symbol of Portugal, in my opinion he is the best player in the world and I hope I can count on him.  But he is one player nothing more.  I continue to believe in Selecao in any circumstances,” revealed Santos.

As such given the excellent balance within the Portuguese squad, whereby it is comprised of an excellent blend of experienced internationalists and talented youngsters, Selecao seem in a strong position to enhance the country’s fine European Championship record at Euro 2016.