Starting tonight in the famous city of Oporto, two of the four teams involved in the Nations League semifinals will get their quest to reach the final and then win the trophy underway as the hosts Portugal take on Switzerland in the first semi. This will then be followed 24-hours late in Guimares with England taking on the Netherlands in what should be a cracking second semifinal.
The four teams are the winners of the four Group’s that comprised League A in the initial Nations League tournament, with the four semi-finalists surprising many analysts to make it through the tournament to this stage. Indeed, possibly on Portugal would have been regarded as the favourite in their group to progress into the semifinal stage.
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Let’s now look ahead to the two semifinals, the first of which takes place tonight in Oporto between the hosts Portugal and the team that sensationally knocked out Belgium in the group stage, Switzerland.
Nations League Semifinals
Portugal v Switzerland
- Estadio do Dragao in Oporto (5th June – 7.45pm Kick Off)
- Ronaldo returns for Portugal but Andre Silva misses out through injury.
- Benfica’s £100m starlet Joao Felix included in the squad.
- Switzerland name a young squad with just one player over the age of 30.
- Premier League duo Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri key men for the Swiss.
After coming through a group that also comprised of Italy and Poland, Portugal were declared as the hosts for the first Nations League semifinal and finals stage and this comes 15 years after the country hosted Euro 2004, where they lost in the final to surprise winners Greece.
The country was boosted by the news that Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, who had declared himself unavailable for the league stage, would return to the squad for the semifinals and final. His inclusion was a big boost as their main goalscorer in Ronaldo’s absence, AC Milan striker Andre Silva, misses out through injury.
All eyes are usually on Ronaldo when Portugal play and he is still their main threat but Portugal also have some incredible talent behind him with the likes of Andre Gomes, who spent a good year on loan at Everton, Man City midfielder Bernardo Silva and Wolves ace Rui Neves all in the squad.
There will also be huge focus on Benfica’s reported £100 million star Joao Felix, who is though to be on the shopping list of every top team around Europe this season and who will likely be sold for in excess of this figure to the highest bidder.
With Ronaldo back, talented young players and home advantage, Portugal will be tough to beat in Oporto tonight.
Vladimir Petkovic has instilled a real sense of self-belief in this Swiss team and this is evident in their results, especially their incredible 5-2 win over Belgium in their last group game, when they found themselves 2-0 down to the World Cup semi-finalists after just 15 minutes of the game.
The Swiss are very strong defensively and will not be easy for Portugal to break down. Their attack relies on the goals of Seferovic and Shaqiri, with the Liverpool star also being their main creative threat both from wider areas and also from set pieces. Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka is the anchor in midfield and he plays a key role for his country.
Switzerland will make it tough for Portugal in this one but I just feel that with home advantage and a couple of players of significantly greater quality, the Portuguese will win the game. So I’m backing Portugal to win at 4/6 with bet365.
Netherlands v England
- Estadio D.Afonso Henriques in Guimares (6th June – 7.45pm Kick Off)
- The Dutch eliminated France and Germany to reach this stage.
- Young Ajax trio, De Ligt, De Jong and Van de Beek could play key roles.
- England have Harry Kane and Dele Alli back from injury for this game.
- The teams have met 21 times, winning 6 games each with nine matches drawn.
Since their World Cup Final appearance in 2010, Dutch football has taken a real nosedive with the team unable to qualify for either Euro 2016 or World Cup 2018. However, since those disappointments, Ronald Koeman has worked his magic and the Dutch eliminated winners of the last two World Cups, France and Germany, in order to reach this stage.
That came on the back of strong home form, with both France and Germany beaten in Holland, while they lost narrowly in France, a stunning comeback from 2-0 in Germany in the last five minutes of the game, the equaliser secured in injury time by Virgil van Dijk’s volley, meant that the Dutch made it through.
Although perhaps not blessed with some of the best attacking players they have ever had, the Dutch strength is in defence and midfield with the likes of De Ligt, van de beek and De Jong of Ajax playing increasingly important roles, with the experience of van Dijk, Blind and Wijnaldum key too.
This will be the first knockout meeting between the Netherlands and England and it should be a cracker.
After defeating Spain and Croatia to reach the semifinals, the second semifinal in a major tournament for Gareth Southgate’s team, England are very much on a high heading to Portugal. Their preparation was hampered by seven of their team being involved in the Champions League final last weekend, but even so, all those involved should be fit to play if selected by the manager.
Southgate has shown a willingness to adapt his tactics based on the teams England face and I think he will do this against a Netherlands team that England beat back in 2018. Another win here would put England in their first final since the 1966 World Cup.
The main issue for England is the fitness of Harry Kane. The Spurs man played in the Champions League final but did not look fully fit and his effectiveness was limited. However, in Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, England have two other players capable of scoring against any team.
I am backing England to just about sneak through against the Dutch and they are 17/10 with bet365 to win the game on Thursday.
Who wins the Final?
Assuming I am right and it is a Portugal v England final, I think this will be a cracking game and I can see extra time or even penalties deciding the winner. I think Portugal have the stronger claim with being on home soil and having beaten England a couple of times in key games in recent times, but I just have a sneaky feeling Gareth Southgate’s men will surprise everyone to land the win here.
You can back England to win the Nations League outright at 2/1 with bet365.