Portugal to win UEFA Nations League? Joao Felix to score first?
The column took down 19/20 and 15/4 winners as Liverpool won a sixth Champions League title on Saturday night, with punters who took our advice about Mo Salah scoring first being paid out after less than two minutes! Focus now switches to the international scene and the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals.
Running total: -£52.10
Portugal is the setting for the Nations League finals, kicking off on June 5 when the hosts face Switzerland. Netherlands and England then do battle on Thursday ahead of Sunday's final and third place playoff. It's not a bad way to draw a line under the 2018/19 season, with hosts Portugal the 15/8 favourites with bet365 to emerge victorious.
England are 9/4 second favourites and cannot be discounted. In Russia last summer, Gareth Southgate put his faith in a new generation of players, including Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire and the Three Lions exceeded expectations by making the semifinals. However there are question marks over the form and fitness of several of their stars, with quite a few of the squad involved in the recent European club finals. Harry Kane is clearly short of match fitness while Dele Alli was awful for the 80 minutes he played on Saturday in the Champions League final and could probably do with a rest.
Netherlands have emerged from the doldrums under Ronald Koeman and won a tough group that also included France and Germany. The Oranje have a strong Ajax contingent, with emerging talents such as Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt set to feature. Switzerland are 6/1 outsiders but will come to have a go and they've been in good form of late.
In terms of picking a winner, Portugal look the most logical choice. Cristiano Ronaldo is set to feature and should be fresh, while the brilliant Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes could also leave this mark on this tournament. Portugal are a team that seem to excel when it comes to knockout football and home advantage will make them tough to beat.
The First Goal Flutter
As expected Cristiano Ronaldo is a red hot favourite to score first for Portugal in their opening game against Switzerland. By his own impossibly high standards, Ronaldo has not had the best of seasons but he remains a major threat in these sort of games and is an 11/5 chance with bet365 to open the scoring.
However, Portuguese wonderkid Joao Felix -- who is being tracked by Manchester United and Manchester City -- could be the man to get with here at 6/1. Felix has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season for Benfica, scoring 15 times in just 26 league appearances. He also provided 11 assists and has established himself as one of the brightest young talents in Europe in his first full season. The forward became the youngest player to score a hat trick in the Europa League this season and he looks a frightening prospect.
The Wildcard Tip
If you believe the bookies then the Swiss are not fancied to do anything in Portugal, but they are a very capable side on their day and proved it by hammering Belgium 5-2 to secure semifinal qualification for this tournament. There's little to separate the teams, with Portugal and Switzerland seventh and eighth respectively in the FIFA world rankings. Portugal boss Fernando Santos has made his side hard to beat (they have not lost since the 2018 World Cup) but they have drawn their last three competitive home games on home soil. With this in mind, 6/1 for the first Nations League semi being settled on penalties looks big.