Portugal 3-1 Switzerland
When Cristiano Ronaldo takes the field, expect the unexpected. And tonight boy…did he deliver!
The Juventus superstar looked a little off his game for much of the 90 minutes, but with three moments of genius, he scored three goals and carried Portugal through to the very first UEFA Nations League final.
After Ronaldo had given Portugal a first half lead, against the run of play, there was some serious VAR chaos in the run up to Switzerland’s equaliser, at which point the Swiss looked the more likely to go on and win the game. But Ronaldo found that extra special magic he possesses and it was a real treat for SBOBET Nations League fans, not to mention the home supporters at the Estadio do Dragao.
These two teams are separated by a mere three points in the FIFA World Rankings, with Portugal in seventh and the Swiss in eighth, and it looked like the match was heading for extra time until Cristiano scored two late goals.
Highlights of the game
Switzerland started the better and came very close on 16 minutes when Xherdan Shaqiri sent a beautiful curling ball into the box. Haris Seferovic just needed a touch and it was 1-0, but the ball wizzed narrowly wide.
In his debut game in the tournament, Ronaldo was always going to make the UEFA Nations League news and in the 25th minute he got to work, winning a free-kick around 25 yards out, and when he lined it up there was only going to be one outcome. Switzerland keeper Yann Sommer took a step the wrong way and Ronaldo placed the ball into the bottom right corner.
Fernando Santos’ Portugal went through the group stage of the UEFA Nations League unbeaten and the home fans were expecting another win. But Vladimir Petkovic has put together a Switzerland team with a collective spirit, often enough to beat teams which, on paper, possess the better players. And despite going a goal behind they had the best chances in the first half, and just before the break the Swiss almost grabbed an equaliser.
After more good work from Shaqiri the ball reached Seferovic and this time his shot cannoned off the crossbar and over.
Switzerland was level on 55 minutes but few in the stadium knew what was happening. Steven Zuber went down in the penalty area and when the referee waved play on, Portugal broke at pace, and when Fabian Schar fouled Bernardo Silva the crowd roared as the referee pointed top the spot.
Then the chaos. When the ref consulted VAR he turned the decision full circle and awarded a penalty for the trip on Zuber which looked soft to say the least. Portugal thought they were about to go 2-0 up but it was 1-1 when Ricardo Rodriguez beat Rui Patricio from the spot.
The Swiss looked like they’d go on and win the game. Shaqiri again got behind the Portugal defence and crossed for Seferovic but this time the striker’s header went wide.
But then, with two minutes remaining and extra time looking on the cards, Bernardo Silva pulled a ball back for Ronaldo and he fired superbly into the bottom corner.
Two is rarely enough for Cristiano and he finished the job on 90 minutes, picking the ball up on the left side of the box, cutting inside and curling a beauty into the far corner.
The pre-match Portugal vs Switzerland betting odds had Portugal to advance at odds of 1.33 and Switzerland at 3.43; but with 55 per cent possession and a shot count of 16 to ten in their favour, the Swiss can feel a little unlucky.
Ronaldo’s 53rd hat-trick for club and country hits the headlines but Switzerland deserved to get something from the game. After qualifying for the finals with more points than any other League A winner they played with composure and dominated for long periods.
And Petkovic’s team still leads the head to heads with ten wins to Portugal’s eight, while Portugal has lost just once in the last 12 months.
Now Santos’ side will play the winner of the other semi final between England and the Netherlands, which takes place tomorrow night, for the title of UEFA Nations’ League winner. The way the players celebrated tonight showed just how much they want to win this tournament to add to their European Championship crown.
For Switzerland it’s a third place play-off, and rest assured, they’ll give any opponent a tough game.
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