Soccer UEFA Nations League - Play Offs
Netherlands vs Italy - Match Preview
⚽ 18 June 2023 - 13:00 GMT +0
A Luka Modrić-inspired Croatia extinguished the Netherlands’ chances of a first international title since 1988 in the first UEFA Nations League (UNL) semi-final, as they failed to capitalize on taking the lead and instead fell to a 4-2 defeat after extra time. Hosting the finals hasn’t had the desired effect for Ronald Koeman’s side, although he did admit afterwards that Croatia “aren’t the third-best team in the world for nothing”.
As the Dutch (FIFA rank: #6) sit above opponents Italy (FIFA rank: #8) he must be expecting improvement here, especially as that was their first home defeat since October 2020 (W11, D3). Whether this tournament even needs a third/fourth place play-off remains a talking point but it’s worth noting that both previous matches were at least competitive, with England beating Switzerland on penalties in 2019, and Italy beating Belgium 2-1 in 2021.
Italy are chasing a second consecutive third-place finish in this tournament after they conceded late to go down 2-1 to Spain on Thursday evening. “Right now we have great midfielders and defenders, but we are lacking great forwards,” manager Roberto Mancini said afterwards, painting a gloomy picture for challenges to come.
After winning three of their last eight matches on foreign soil (D1, L4), the Azzurri have struggled in all departments away from Italy, making the need to find consistent goalscoring options all the more pressing. Mancini must be desperate for his side to start positively too, as they conceded first inside the opening 20 minutes in four of the last six of those games (W3, L3)!
📋 Players to watch: After opening the scoring against Croatia, Netherlands’ forward Donyell Malen has netted before the 40th minute in three of his last five appearances for club and country. Ciro Immobile might take issue with Mancini’s comment about great forwards, as his strike for Italy against Spain was his fifth goal contribution (G3, A2) in as many games for club and country!
⚡ Hot stat: Six of the last seven H2Hs produced under 2.5 goals – none of them lost by Italy (W3, D4).
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