Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Cristiano Ronaldo yet to score against Virgil van Dijk as Portugal face the Netherlands

It's arguably the world's best striker versus the world's best defender in the Uefa Nations League final

Having bagged more than 600 career goals, there aren't many of the world's top defenders that Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored against.

But there is one significant exception – Virgil van Dijk.

The two titans of football go head to head in the Uefa Nations League final on Sunday evening when Portugal face the Netherlands at the Estadio do Dragao.

As well as a clash between the two nations, it is being billed as Ronaldo versus Van Dijk – the world's in-form striker after his stunning hat-trick against Switzerland in the semi-final, against the world's best defender who is fresh from Champions League glory with Liverpool.

An extraordinary statistic has come to light after Van Dijk's fantastic club season – that he hasn't been dribbled past in more than 60 consecutive matches.

Ronaldo, however, had little trouble dribbling past the Swiss defence in the final minutes of last week's semi-final, and even remarked afterwards how he likes to finish matches in style, posting on Instagram alongside his third goal: "After 90 minutes of intense exercise, there’s always a chance for a final punchline! Ending big is always the best way to close the show!"

He goes into Sunday evening's match with no goals to his name against Van Dijk, though.

Their first encounter came on the international stage when Portugal faced the Netherlands in Geneva in March last year.

The Netherlands ran out comfortable 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Memphis Depay, Ryan Babel and a well-taken half volley from Van Dijk at the end of the first half.

Ronaldo was unusually subdued in front of goal. A header from a free-kick in the second half which was saved low down by 'keeper Jasper Cillessen was his only clear chance, and on that occasion he wasn't being marked by Van Dijk. The Portuguese was substituted in the 68th minute.

There was a happier outcome for him a couple of months later when he came up against Van Dijk for a second time – on this occasion in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.

Real, of course, ran out 3-1 winners while Ronaldo's contribution was overshadowed by Gareth Bale's spectacular overhead kick, Mohamed Salah's injury and Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius's two major errors.

Ronaldo had an opportunity in the first half to go past Van Dijk as he cut into the penalty area from the right touch line but instead chose to shoot as the Dutchman closed him down. His shot went high.

He also had a header well saved by Karius and saw the follow up put away by Karim Benzema only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. Van Dijk wasn't in close attention at the time.

The second half saw Ronaldo given another opportunity to go one-on-one with Van Dijk inside the penalty area, but the Dutchman slid in and won that duel. A further attempt, with Ronaldo breaking into the box with Van Dijk in front of him, saw play held up by a pitch invader.

For the neutrals it may be Ronaldo versus Van Dijk, but for the players it is all about the team.

"We play Portugal, we are not playing Cristiano Ronaldo," Van Dijk said. "They have a very good team. It's going to be tough. We need to be ready."

Updated: June 9, 2019 04:17 PM

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