Did they forget that competitive football was still on? 
After showing some cojones in the Champions League knockouts, English players finally collapsed with errors and misfortune with the national team. The UEFA Nations League final sets up a Netherlands versus Portugal clash after entertaining 3-1 wins in the semifinals. 
It pits Virgil Van Dijk against another GOAT. The Liverpool defender may be sealing a comfortable spot in this year’s Ballon D’or standings with the inaugural Nations League trophy alongside his Champions League winners medal. While Cristiano Ronaldo is gunning for a second international honour before Lionel Messi possibly seals his first in the upcoming Copa America.

Ronaldo wants to slay the Dutch. Image Credit: Mike Egerton/PA wire

The Dutch would be looking to dominate possession with real purpose, which perfectly suits Portugal’s lightning-quick counter attacking style. Crucial to that would be William Carvalho winning possession and Ruben Neves’ distribution. 
Bernardo Silva, Portugal’s creator-in-chief and one of the most-heralded number 10s in world football right now, would be keen to test Frenkie de Jong, fresh from a midfield masterclass against England. Bernardo proved in Manchester City’s treble-winning season how good he is at running his socks off to win the ball back- with the most tackles (five) and one interception against Switzerland- as well as his decisiveness on the ball, creating the most chances and dribbles (four each).

Bernardo Silva is Portugal’s creative hub. Image Credit: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

 In Barcelona-bound De Jong, he faces a young man who holds a complete disregard for pressure. The 22-year-old registered the most touches (128), most passes (105), most tackles and interceptions (five and three respectively) in a storming semi-final performance. He sure proved a point to Dele Alli and Spurs’ English fans.
While Netherlands lack a specialist goalscorer in their ranks, hat-trick hero Ronaldo set the Nations League finals alight and must complete the job against The Netherlands.  He is the difference for the hosts and wants to add to his 88 international goals on his 158th cap. João Félix is one of the brightest teenage attacking talents in the world right now and has been paired upfront with Ronaldo, with 20 goals in all competitions last season, the Dutch defence would have him firmly on their minds as much as Ronaldo.

Matthijs de Ligt scoring a thunderous header against England. Image Credit: Getty Images

The Portuguese would be wary, however, of the 3-nil thumping they received in Ronald Koeman’s first win as Netherlands manager last year.
It’s refreshing to have two unusual nations compete for an international European trophy, particularly considering the evolution both teams are undergoing.
That’s why the Nations League was created, European national teams have something to play for unlike pointless friendlies in obscure parts of the world. 
What has it taught us so far? England still cannot win a semifinal and Bernardo going up against De Jong, a match even the Champions league couldn’t offer.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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