Football News

Jose Fonte on Nations League finals hopes and Portugal’s next generation of talent

By Chris Smith

Published: 11:21, 4 June 2019

EXCLUSIVE – Jose Fonte is hoping for a Portugal vs England showdown in this week’s inaugural Uefa Nations League finals. 

The hosts face Switzerland on Wednesday before England take on the Netherlands the following day for a place in Sunday’s final.

The inaugural Nations League finals: Five things to know…

  1. Hosts Portugal face Switzerland in the first Nations League semi-final on Wednesday.
  2. That is followed by England vs Netherlands on Thursday.
  3. The losers will play a third-place play-off at 3pm BST on Sunday.
  4. The final takes place at 8:45pm GMT on the same day.
  5. Lille defender Fonte is relishing an opportunity to test himself against the best.

Fonte has been named in the Portugal squad for the tournament and although he believes it will be a tough trophy to win regardless of the opposition, the 35-year-old admitted he would like to face England.

“We’ve got Switzerland and it’s going to be a tough game. They have a very, very good squad. To be in the final four it means they have a very good squad,” the Lille defender told Squawka.

“We know it’s going to be hard so if we can get past them between England and Netherlands – whoever [we play] it will be a great game between them.

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“They both have great players and great strikers. It’s always nice to play against England as I lived in England for 10 years and have so many friends there and I have family there.

“It would be nice to have Portugal vs England perhaps but then on the other side I have Ronald Koeman who is a manager who is very dear to me and I have teammates in Holland who are very dear to me so it’s difficult to predict.”

Fonte backs Lille teammate Rafael Leão for the top

Although Fonte is one of six players in Portugal’s squad over the age of 30, the reigning European champions still have a strong clutch of exciting youngsters developing just under the surface.

And Fonte has backed Lille teammate Rafael Leão, as well as the likes of Joao Felix and Florentino Luis from Benfica to make it to the top.

“In terms of young Portugal players who can reach the top level, I’m sure you’ve heard about a few of these kids – but we have Joao Felix – he’s a good prospect a good young player who can get there,” Fonte added when asked about the talent coming through the Portugal ranks.

“But you also have others – Florentino Luís from Benfica – a very, very good player.

“You also have Rafael Leão from Lille. He can be a top striker. He’s scored nine or 10 goals this season he’s only 19 or 20 and is fast, super powerful, tall. He can go all the way, he finishes well and can go all the way to the top.

“Without a doubt, Rafael Leão can be a top, top player and if he keeps listening, keeps working hard, keeps his feet on the ground and keeps grinding he can definitely be a top player because he has all the talent for that.”