International Friendly: Portugal vs Netherlands – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
A Portuguese squad full of confidence meets a puzzled Dutch outfit in Geneva, but will the Selecao have to rely on Cristiano Ronaldo once again?
Two great footballing nations, but in very different shapes just three months out from a World Cup. Portugal have lost just twice since going the distance at Euro 2016 almost two years ago whereas the Netherlands have failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup.
Both sides have already played in the international break, and with Portugal leaving it late to overcome Egypt, they will be looking for more conviction against the Dutch.
Holland have just begun life under new manager Ronald Koeman, as he looks to rebuild a deflated nation who are on course to go at least six years without a trip to a tournament finals.
Last time out
Portugal 2-1 Egypt (International friendly)
In a tie billed as a clash between two of the deadliest finishers on the planet, the meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt didn’t disappoint.
Egypt looked to be on course for a shock victory in Zurich with Salah caressing the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, but Ronaldo had other ideas.
Portugal always looked likely to score, but they were made to wait until the 92nd minute when Ronaldo headed in Ricardo Quaresma’s centre. Two minutes later the same combination struck again with Ronaldo bulleting another header into the net.
Not convincing from the Portuguese, but still building towards Russia nonetheless.
Netherlands 0-1 England (International friendly)
In Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge, the Dutch side had a chance to show their quality and what the world will be missing this summer. In a winnable tie against an England side still searching for consistency and conviction under Gareth Southgate, the Netherlands whimpered.
The Dutch offered little attacking threat and looked content in shutting down the visitors in Amsterdam. A loose ball fell to Jesse Lingard on the edge of the penalty area and he made stroked beyond Jerome Zoet, who should have done better.
Even after falling a goal down, there was little response from the home side, given Koeman plenty to ponder for the meeting with Portugal and beyond.
Expect Portugal head coach Fernando Santos to ring the changes in Geneva. He is without the injured defenders Nelson Semedo, Fabio Coentrao and Ruen Dias, so that could open the door for a first cap for Napoli left back Mario Rui. Captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo could be rested.
After a timid performance on home soil, Koeman will too mix things up, with a change of formation a possibility. Sergio Padt, Daley Blind, Daryl Janmaat, Jeffrey Bruma, Karim Rekik, Ruud Vormer, Luuk De Jong and Steven Bergwijn have all returned to their clubs, so debuts could be in line for Marco Bizot, Guus Til and Justin Kluivert.
Key battle: Joao Cancelo (Portugal) vs Justin Kluivert (Netherlands)
Cristiano Ronaldo may not start for Portugal given the Ballon d’Or winner has an important run-in with Real Madrid as they search for a third successive Champions League title.
The tie in Geneva could be then be perfect for the younger generation as Justin Kluivert to makes his debut for the Dutch national team.
His father Patrick scored 40 goals in 79 games for the country, and the 18-year-old Justin will look to give Portugal right back Joao Cancelo a torrid time on Monday night.
Cancelo is only in the squad due to Nelson Semedo’s injury and he needs to pull out a solid performance in an unreliable Portuguese back four to encourage his coach of a spot on the plane to Russia.
Can Portugal cope without Cristiano?
Cristiano Ronaldo will no doubt play some part in Geneva, but Fernando Santos should use the tie against the deflated Dutch to see how his side can perform without the captian. They did win the Euro 2016 final with Ronaldo off the field injured, but with so few forwards in the squad this time around, you struggle to see them being a threat.
A three-man midfield now looks likely with Andre Silva the only conventional striker available. Don’t expect goals until CR7 takes to the field.
A more daring Dutch
After disappointing their home fans (again) against England, Ronald Koeman should look to be more adventurous against Portugal. Euro 2020 qualification does not begin until March 2019, so there is plenty of time to get things in order.
Attacking threats Memphis Depay and Quincy Promes didn’t show off their ability in Amsterdam, and these X factor players need to show their new coach why they should be part of his future plans. Another tame performance and it could be ‘here we go again’ for the Dutch.
Youth trumps experience…
Experience is said to be vital in defence, but in comparing the Portuguese and Netherlands defensive lines, you’d have to say the younger Dutch defensive lineup have the edge.
Centre backs Bruno Alves, Rolando and Jose Fonte are all past their bests, and it puts a lot of pressure on the Portuguese full-backs to bail out their senior teammates. Portugal relied on centre back pairing Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and without them, their defence looks vulnerable
As for the Dutch, they can call on Virgil Van Dijk and promising trio Stefan De Vrij, Matthijs De Ligt and Nathan Ake. They may make mistakes at times, but at their best they can keep any forward line in the world quiet. If Koeman can build a defensive foundation, perhaps what he was looking for against England, then the Oranje have the potential to have one of the meanest defences in world football.
Prediction: Portugal 2-0 Netherlands
The Dutch still appear to be at sixes and sevens, and that will play into the hands of Portugal. The Portuguese players are still fighting for seats on the plane to Russia and that hunger is a huge factor in this friendly. Santos will hope that his side can get the job done without having to rely on Cristiano Ronaldo, however.