The Netherlands lost to Croatia in the Nations League semi-finals on Wednesday. Ronald Koeman’s side lost to Croatia 2-4 and were eliminated. Goals from Donyell Malen and Noah Lang mean Oranje will qualify for the third-place play-off on Sunday.
The first two games since Ronald Koeman’s second term as manager of the Netherlands have been disappointing. After a crushing 4-0 defeat to France in qualifying for the European Championship, the team failed to pull off a 3-0 win against Gibraltar in March. Koeman was forced to spend this international break without Memphis Depay because Starman was injured. Rutscharel Gertruida and Teun Koop minors were given the starting lineup, while Julian Timber and Georginio Wijnaldum started on the bench. Croatia’s Luka Modric was in the starting line-up. The former Ballon d’Or winner is reportedly set to retire after the Nations League, so he will likely play as the penultimate international player.
The Nations League will be the last chance for a silver medal for this generation of Croatian teams. Croatia reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and reached the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup in Qatar. It was marked by the ferocity and aggression of the Croatian side’s play, with many fouls and hard tackles roared by the 12,000 fans at De Kuip.
However, despite this, it was not possible to prevent Koeman’s side from taking the lead in the 33rd minute. A pass through the defense of newly crowned Champions League winner Nathan Ake caught Mats Wiefer in the box. The midfielder handed the ball over to Donyell Malen, who finished the rest by slamming it into the far corner.
A penalty was awarded to Croatia in the 52nd minute. Kodi Gakpo didn’t see Modric coming out the corner of his eye and pulled the midfielder back into the box. Referee Istvan Kovac pointed to the spot without hesitation. Andrei Kramaric took a penalty and calmly stabbed the ball into the center to equalize.
Koeman’s team did not react and was reversed in the 73rd minute. Luka Ivanusek crossed the ball into the box, where Atalanta midfielder Mario Pasalic played it in.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Gakpo had a great opportunity to make up for a mistake when a ball that was advantageous to the front line fell, but the shot went off target.
But the Croatian kept failing to block a cross, which was the main danger for the Dutchman with his size advantage, and ultimately paid the price. A cross from Frenkie de Jong was headed in by Virgil van Dijk before substitute Noah Lang dropped it into the net and scored on goal with a side foot.
The goal was scored 30 seconds before the final whistle blew, sending the game into extra time. Croatia opened the scoring with Bruno Petkovic’s sudden shot in the 7th minute of extra time. The striker turned away from De Jong and fired a shot from distance that Dutch goalkeeper Justin Bijurou couldn’t stop.
After an error by Lobro Majel gave the Netherlands a chance, Lang was given a golden chance to level the score for the Netherlands in extra time. Steven Bergwijn had the first shot and was saved by Dominik Rybakovic, but the rebound fell to Lang and all that was left was to shoot for goal. The winger missed the attempt, only hitting the side netting.
It was Pasalic’s turn to miss a big chance next, but Pasalic, who had already dodged Bizirou, slammed the ball over the crossbar.
Croatia finished the game with five minutes remaining. Tyrell Marasia attempted a dangerous tackle in the box, only to make contact with Petkovic to give Croatia a second penalty. Croatia captain Luka Modric has stepped up and converted to cap off an excellent performance by the captain.
The Netherlands will play the third place match in Enschede on Sunday. Spain will face Italy in the other semi-final tomorrow to determine who faces Croatia in Rotterdam and who faces Ronald Koeman’s men in the final.
https://nltimes.nl/2023/06/14/oranje-beaten-croatia-nations-league-semi-finals Oranje lose to Croatia in Nations League semi-finals