Soccer UEFA Nations League - Play Offs
Netherlands vs Croatia - Match Preview
⚽ 14 June 2023 - 18:45 GMT +0
This is the Netherlands' second participation in the UEFA Nations League (UNL) finals and, now as hosts, they will hope to go one better than last time when they lost 1-0 in the final of the inaugural edition against Portugal back in 2018/19. Louis van Gaal guided the Oranje through an unbeaten group stage against Wales, Belgium, and Poland. However, it is Ronald Koeman who now has the chance to become the first manager since 1988 to lead the Netherlands to cup glory.
Koeman’s men have the advantage of playing on home soil in this semi-final, with Feyenoord’s famous De Kuip providing the backdrop for this clash against recent World Cup semi-finalists Croatia. That should give them an edge here as they’ve won all but one of their competitive home games since the end of 2020 (W8, D1), a record they’ll hope to further improve upon in what is incredibly just the third meeting between these nations after one win apiece.
Led by the unrivalled, yet ageing Luka Modric, this could be the final chance for Croatia’s golden generation to pick up major silverware. Unlike their adversaries, the Croats didn’t quite manage an unbeaten group stage but instead booked their first place in the finals by bouncing back from a day one defeat to win four of the next five group games.
Manager Zlatko Dalić may hope that impressive form combined with medals from the last two World Cups can provide a springboard for their first-ever major trophy, yet he has labelled the Dutch as “the toughest opponents in the tournament” ahead of this crunch clash. In any case, 90 minutes may well be enough to settle this, with Croatia never drawing a UNL away game in the competition's short history (W3, L5), with all three wins coming in their most recent trips.
📋 Players to watch: Champions League winner Nathan Aké and beaten finalist Denzel Dumfries link up in the Dutch backline just days after their contrasting Saturday evenings; the latter has eight goal contributions across his last 11 competitive internationals (G3, A5). Recently described as “footballing perfection” by Dalić, Modrić will try to build on his two group stage goals in search of some historic silverware for his country.
⚡ Hot stat: Three of the Netherlands’ last four UNL home games saw both teams score over 3.5 total match goals.
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