Croatia has had a great season and has the opportunity to end it on a high note by winning the Nations League finals against three opponents who are trying to regain their former glory after a tiring season.
This week, the Netherlands is hosting a four-nation tournament. The first semi-final will be played in Rotterdam on Wednesday between Croatia, who were World Cup semi-finalists, and the hosts. The second semi-final will take place in Enschede 24 hours later between Italy and Spain.
The victorious teams will advance to the final match in Rotterdam on Sunday, which will be held following the third-place playoff.
The reputation that Croatia had built during their run to the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup was similar to the one they had established four years ago in Russia, where they had lost to France in the final. However, the Netherlands and Spain felt that they could have performed better in Qatar.
The Netherlands were eliminated from the quarter-finals through a penalty shootout, whereas Spain was shocked by Morocco in the round of 16.
Despite not qualifying for the 2022 event, Italy has decided to retain Roberto Mancini as their coach to reconstruct the team. Mancini will have the support of a young squad, including five players from Inter Milan, who lost the Champions League final to Manchester City on Saturday.
“It’s a great achievement to be back in the final four,” said Mancini. “In the group we had good teams like Germany, England and Hungary. We’re in the final stage and it’s clear that we want to win, like the others, but it won’t be easy.”
Spain has undergone significant changes under the leadership of their new coach, Luis de la Fuente, following the World Cup. In March, after their last set of international matches, de la Fuente made seven alterations to the team, which included the return of 37-year-old Jesus Navas.
The absence of Memphis Depay and the appointment of Ronald Koeman as coach have left the Dutch team seeking a revival as they enter the tournament.
On the other hand, Croatia, led by Luka Modric, are known for their reliability, but unfortunately, defender Josko Gvardiol will not be playing due to an injury.
After coming in second place at the 2018 World Cup and placing third in Qatar in December, they now have an opportunity to secure their first major championship.
The Nations League, which was created to replace unimportant friendly matches on the international calendar, is now in its third edition. Portugal emerged victorious in the inaugural tournament in 2019, while France claimed the title two years ago.