Nations League Final Preview: Netherlands battle Portugal for inaugural crown  
The official trophy is seen inside the stadium ahead of the Nations League Semi-Finals at Estadio do Dragao on June 03, 2019 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Lukas Schulze - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Nations League Final Preview: Netherlands battle Portugal for inaugural crown  

Competition's first final pits a resurgent Dutch against the reigning European champions.

dave-comerford
David Comerford

The Netherlands and Portugal will go head-to-head for the honour of being the first UEFA Nations League champions on Sunday evening.

Quincy Promes was the hero as the Dutch saw off England in extra time on Friday, 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo's scintillating hat-trick had fired Portugal past Switzerland.

The two defeated sides will battle it out for third place at 15.00 before the main event at the Estadio do Dragao, the home of FC Porto, at 19.45.

As per recent rule changes, VAR will be in use, and both sides will be permitted an extra substitution if extra time is required.

What's at stake?

Aside from an aesthetically pleasing silver trophy, significant prize money is also up for grabs.

The winners of the competition will be awarded €6million, in addition to the €2.25m they received for winning their group, while the runners-up will pocket €4.5million.

Both sides have already secured a spot in the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs by virtue of reaching the finals, though neither side should have many problems progressing automatically.

Ronald Koeman's team are hunting for their first international crown since Euro '88, while Fernando Santos' outfit will be looking to underline their intention to retain their European Championship crown next summer. 

Road to the final

Many would have tipped the Netherlands to face demotion to League B when they were drawn against Germany and world champions France, but their group stage performances were mightily impressive.

After a narrow defeat in Paris, they emphatically beat Germany and gained revenge against the French in Amsterdam.

There was drama in the final round of fixtures as strikes from Promes and Virgil van Dijk rescued a draw against the Germans and earned the Oranje a place in the last four.

Friday's battling victory against England was deserved, but perhaps the 120-minute dogfight will take its toll. 

Portugal are unbeaten in the competition but have very much been made to work for their place in the final.

They kicked off their campaign with narrow wins against Italy and Poland, before holding on for draws in their remaining games to clinch top spot.

Extra-time loomed against the Swiss on Thursday after some VAR mayhem, only for the remarkable Ronaldo, who had opened the scoring with a superb free-kick, to produce a last-gasp double. 

Those were the icon's first international goals for 350 days, and his first contributions of a tournament he had previously watched from the sidelines.

The story?

There will be a vast array of talent on show - including young sensations such as Mathijs de LigtSteven Bergwijn, Joao Felix and Ruben Neves - but it remains tempting to frame this match as Van Dijk against Ronaldo.

The two players faced-off in last season's Champions League final, and while Ronaldo did not manage to get on the scoresheet, his Real Madrid side came out on top.

But this year it was Van Dijk tasting European success, and having already won the Premier League Player of the Year award, lifting this trophy will only boost his prospects of potentially winning the Ballon d'Or.

The centre-half emerged from a clash with Lionel Messi with his growing reputation very much intact, but Ronaldo, not thought to be in contention for the ultimate individual prize this year, will be determined to overwhelm the man many regard as the best defender on the planet.

For the Dutch national team in a wider sense, this represents an opportunity to send a message to their rivals.

They have been notable absentees from the last two major tournaments, but with Van Dijk and De Ligt providing a mighty defensive base, Frenkie de Jong anchoring the midfield and an exciting attack coming into its own, they appear ready to compete for top honours again.

Portugal, meanwhile, will be keen to taste success on home soil and clinch successive continental trophies. 

The extent of the victors' celebrations come the final whistle will serve as an indication of the degree to which this novel but entertaining tournament has been embraced. 

VAVEL Logo