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Reliving the Best Moments of UEFA Nations League History

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Nations League is a recent addition to the international football calendar, having been inaugurated in the 2018-19 season. Despite its relative youth, the tournament has already produced a rich tapestry of memorable moments that have left an indelible mark on football history. The UEFA Nations League, designed to replace meaningless friendlies with competitive fixtures, has proven to be a platform where nations can showcase their talent, tactics, and tenacity.

The 2018-2019 UEFA Nations League

In the inaugural 2018-19 edition of the UEFA Nations League, the world saw the emergence of Portugal as the first-ever champions of the tournament. The final took place in Porto, Portugal, with the home team taking on the Netherlands. It was the culmination of a fiercely contested tournament that saw England, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Portugal emerge as the final four. The tournament format was an exciting new proposition, and the teams didn't disappoint, serving up a feast of thrilling football.

The final was a closely fought encounter. Portugal, led by the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo, took on a resurgent Netherlands side. The Dutch, boasting a mix of young talents and experienced hands, posed a significant challenge. However, it was Portugal who emerged victorious, courtesy of a 60th-minute strike from Gonçalo Guedes. The goal slipped past the Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, leading Portugal to a memorable 1-0 victory. The home crowd erupted in joy as Portugal lifted the inaugural UEFA Nations League trophy. The victory was especially significant for Portugal as it extended their unbeaten run to ten games, showcasing their consistency and tenacity on the grand stage.

Star Players and Performances

Ronaldo’s Return as the Top Scorer & Goal of the Tournament

The 2018-2019 UEFA Nations League was shaped significantly by a number of stellar individual performances. These performances didn't just entertain the spectators but also played a crucial role in determining the trajectory of the tournament. A key figure among these was the iconic Portuguese forward, Cristiano Ronaldo. Known for his extraordinary goal-scoring ability, Ronaldo once again demonstrated why he is considered one of the greatest players in the world. His consistent scoring throughout the tournament saw him clinch the Alipay Top Scorer Trophy, underlining his invaluable contribution to Portugal's title-winning campaign.

In addition, Ronaldo's goal against Switzerland was named the Goal of the Tournament. This accolade served as a testament to his unmatched talent and ability to score from almost any situation, further cementing his reputation as a player who rises to the occasion in big tournaments. His performances were not only instrumental in guiding Portugal to the title, but they also left an indelible mark on the tournament as a whole, providing moments that will be remembered by football fans for years to come.

Bernardo Silva Wins Player of the Tournament

However, Ronaldo wasn't the only standout performer for Portugal in the tournament. His compatriot, Bernardo Silva, also made his presence felt with his exceptional performances in midfield. Silva was a key figure in Portugal's successful campaign, providing stability in the middle of the park, creating opportunities for his teammates, and contributing significantly in both attack and defence. His influential performances didn't go unnoticed, as he was deservedly awarded the Player of the Tournament accolade. This recognition was a clear affirmation of Silva's important role in Portugal's triumph and his status as one of the finest midfielders in the world.

Frenkie de Jong Claims the Young Player of the Tournament Accolade

The 2019 Nations League also provided a platform for emerging talents to showcase their potential on the international stage. One such talent was Frenkie de Jong from the Netherlands. Despite his young age, De Jong displayed maturity and composure beyond his years throughout the tournament. His performances in the heart of the Netherlands' midfield were characterized by his excellent ball control, accurate passing, and ability to dictate the tempo of the game. These attributes earned him the Young Player of the Tournament award, signalling his arrival as a top talent on the global stage and marking him as a player to watch in future tournaments. His contribution was not only significant in the context of the Netherlands' campaign, but also in adding a layer of intrigue and excitement to the tournament by highlighting the promising future of international football.

The 2020-2021 UEFA Nations League

Two years later, in 2020-21, the second edition of the UEFA Nations League took place, with the finals held in Italy. This time around, the final was a clash between two footballing giants - France and Spain. Spain took the lead in the 64th minute with a goal from Mikel Oyarzabal, putting the French side under pressure. However, the French team, boasting some of the world's best players, managed to turn the game around. Karim Benzema equalised with a remarkable goal, and then, ten minutes from the end of the game, Kylian Mbappé scored the decisive goal to seal the victory for France. The comeback was a testament to the strength of character of the French team and reinforced the reputation of the Nations League as a tournament that delivers exciting, unpredictable football.

The tournament wasn't just about the finals, though. The journey to the final witnessed some memorable games. Belgium, France, Spain, and hosts Italy reached the final tournament. Spain beat Italy 2-1 in Milan to book their final place, while France rallied from a 2-0 deficit to overcome Belgium 3-2 in a thrilling encounter. After their semi-final defeat, Italy regrouped to beat Belgium 2-1 in the third-place play-off. The tournament had its fair share of drama and excitement, further enhancing the reputation of the Nations League.

Star Players and Performances

Kylian Mbappé Finishes as Top Scorer

The 2021 UEFA Nations League was a tournament that bore witness to a host of impressive individual displays, with players from various countries demonstrating their immense talent on the international stage. Among these, France's Kylian Mbappé was particularly remarkable, earning himself the Alipay Top Scorer Trophy. This accolade was a testament to his keen eye for goal and ability to consistently find the back of the net throughout the competition.

Karim Benzema Scores the Goal of the Tournament

In addition to Mbappé, Karim Benzema, also of France, provided one of the tournament's most memorable moments. His exceptional strike in the final earned him the Goal of the Tournament award, a fitting recognition for a goal of such high calibre in the climactic match of the tournament. This moment encapsulated Benzema's technical prowess and ability to deliver under pressure.

Sergio Busquets Wins Player of the Tournament

Spain's Sergio Busquets was another player who made a significant impact on the tournament. His performances earned him the Player of the Tournament award, a testament to his influential role in Spain's progress to the final. His leadership and composure in the heart of midfield were key factors in Spain's strong showing.

Nations League Qualifiers Top Scorer

The Top Scorer award for the Nations League qualifiers, meanwhile, was shared among three players - Erling Haaland of Norway, Romelu Lukaku of Belgium, and Ferran Torres of Spain. Each of these players scored six goals during the qualifiers, showcasing their proficiency in front of goal and their vital contributions to their respective teams.

Nations League Trivia

Beyond the individual performances, the 2021 Nations League was also notable for a number of intriguing facts and milestones. France's victory in the final extended their unbeaten streak in competitive matches to 25, an impressive feat that left them just shy of their all-time record unbeaten run. This impressive sequence of results underlined the team's consistent strength and quality.

During the final, Antoine Griezmann achieved a personal milestone, earning his 100th cap for France. This achievement underscored his longevity and continued importance in the French team, reflecting his consistent performances and significant contribution to the team over a sustained period.

An interesting piece of trivia emerged in the form of the Hernández brothers, Lucas and Theo. They became the first brothers to represent France in the same match since 1974, a rare occurrence that added an extra layer of interest to the tournament.

Finally, Italy's Nicolò Barella reached a landmark during the third-place play-off against Belgium. His goal in this match was Italy's 100th under the stewardship of coach Roberto Mancini, a milestone that highlighted the team's attacking prowess under his leadership and the progress made by the team during his tenure.

The 2023 UEFA Nations League Build-up

The 2023 UEFA Nations League Finals are swiftly approaching, with the Netherlands hosting the competition. It is set to start on June 14th and conclude on June 18th. The final four teams in the 2022-2023 edition of the Nations League are the Netherlands, Croatia, Spain, and Italy.

Here at we will cover betting markets on all teams and their respective fixtures. In the semi-finals, Croatia will play against the Netherlands and Italy will face Spain. The losers of the semi-final matches will compete in the third-place play-off while the winners will vie for the trophy in the final on the 18th of June at De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam.

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