Hosts Portugal, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands will contest the inaugural Finals of the UEFA Nations League – the biennial international football competition contested by UEFA association members. This competition largely replaces the international friendly matches previously played on the FIFA International Match Calendar. These four countries have been drawn to face each other for a place in Sunday’s final to be played at Porto’s Estádio do Dragão with the winner going home with a trophy and €10.5m while the Runners-up gets €9.0m, Third place €8.0m and Fourth position €7.0m. The first semi-finals draw sees host Portugal take on Switzerland in Porto tonight while the second semi-finals is between Netherlands and England tomorrow in Guimarães.
Here is our preview of the semi-finals.
PORTUGAL v SWITZERLAND – WED. 05 JUNE 2019, 19.45HRS
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Portugal host to Switzerland at the Dragão,Porto in the first semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League. The European champions were impressive in the group stages of the competition, but would not want to stop here. This football loving country is hungry for success after the 2016 European championship triumph in France. The Rossocrociati did well to win their group ahead of favorites Blegium to get to the last four. They crushed Belgium 5-2 in their last group game and have the opportunity to upset the odds again by stunning the host in front of a packed crowd in Porto. The Swiss have become a regular team in major international tournaments; they played at the last three FIFA World Cups and three of the last four European championships to underline their credentials as a force to reckon. Securing a final four in the inaugural Nations League emphasizes their improvement in international football. Can they surprise the host?
VERDICT – In the last 12 encounters between these two great sides, the outcome has been pretty even (4W, 4D, 4L) each. Both teams recorded 2-0 home wins in the last World Cup Qualification campaign and none of past four head to head games saw goals scored at both ends. Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo back having previously excused himself from this competition. His presence and competitive edge is a bonus for A Selecao das Quinas who have home advantage as well. The Nati have proven to be giant killers and will take the game to the favorites – Portugal. An explosive game is anticipated at the Dragão; over 2.5 goals is the prediction.
NETHERLANDS v ENGLAND – THUR. 06 JUNE 2019, 19.45HRS
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All eyes wil be on Estadio Dom Alfonso Henriques, Guimarães when Netherlands and England face each other in second semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League. The Oranje have made significant progress since Ronald Koeman took charge and have been led by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk who has enjoyed a remarkable season with his club. He would be facing familiar opponents on Thursday night but the Three Lions have become a stronger force under Gareth Southgate. England looks unstoppable at the moment and will be looking to extend their winning run in all competitions to six games. The Dutch appear to have recovered their vibrancy under Koeman and were impressive in the group stage of this competition finishing above World Champions France and Germany. Following their semi-finals run at the last World Cup, there is a growing sense of belief that England are getting closer to winning another major international title at senior level since 1966. Can they make it to the final in Porto?
VERDICT – Virgil van Dijk and Mathijs De Ligt is probably the best center-back partnership now in international football and they would be the bedrock of Netherlands as they target a place in the finals. Harry Kane doesn’t look fully fit, he struggled during the Champions League final and might not get the nod to lead England attack. Both teams will suffer a bit with nine players across the two squads playing in Saturday’s Champions League final and it remains to be seen how both will line up on Thursday. It makes it difficult to predict the outcome here but we believe both teams would get on the score sheet.
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