2023 Nations League Finals Review of Croatia vs Netherlands
The Croatian team made significant progress towards winning their first major championship by defeating the Netherlands 4-2 in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League (UNL) at De Kuip in Rotterdam, despite initially falling behind. This loss marked the first defeat for the Dutch team under Ronald Koeman’s leadership during this UNL cycle.
The Netherlands were eager to take advantage of playing on their home turf after losing in the final of the first ever Uefa Nations League. They had won all but one of their last 10 competitive matches in the Netherlands since the end of 2020. Croatia, as usual, were tough opponents in the beginning of the game, and the home crowd only saw one shot on target. Fortunately, the Netherlands scored a goal before halftime. Nathan Aké passed the ball from the left to Mats Wieffer, who found Donyell Malen to shoot the ball into the bottom corner of the Croatian net. This gave the Dutch team a small lead going into halftime.
In the past five years, Zlatko Dalić’s team has demonstrated their ability to remain composed when trailing, and this composure was evident once again as they fought their way back into the game. Luka Modrić took advantage of Cody Gakpo’s mistake in his own box, resulting in a penalty being awarded after the Liverpool forward brought down the Croatia captain. Andrej Kramarić calmly converted the penalty from 12 yards, bringing the game back to a tie less than 10 minutes into the second half of the match.
The Dutch team had difficulty dealing with the setback, and Croatia scored a goal that they deserved. Luka Ivanušec passed the ball low, and Mario Pašalić volleyed it into the net. As the game neared its end, the Croatian players’ experience in big games became more apparent, and they kept the ball away from their penalty area for long periods. In the final moments, the Netherlands team tried everything to score, and in the sixth minute of added time, they finally succeeded. Noa Lang remained calm and scored a goal by skillfully directing the ball high into the net after the visitors failed to clear a set-piece. This goal led to extra time.
The Dutch team had the advantage after scoring a last-minute goal, but it was Croatia who ultimately scored the crucial fifth goal of the game. Bruno Petković, who had previously scored against Brazil in the World Cup, made a spectacular turn and shot from the edge of the area to score.
The Dutch team couldn’t make a comeback and were defeated by two goals, with Modrić scoring a penalty in the 116th minute after a bad challenge from Tyrell Malacia. As a result, the Dutch team dropped to third place and will play in the play-off, while Croatia will face either Spain or Italy in the final as they aim for their first major trophy.