Netherlands and Italy will face off in the UEFA Nations League Finals third-place play-off this weekend.
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Netherlands vs Italy predictions
Make no mistake, this is a match the Netherlands and Italy would rather not be playing.
Third-place play-offs are always contentious. Much depends on which two teams are contesting it.
For instance, at World Cup 2022 Croatia and Morocco were happy to fulfil the fixture to celebrate tournaments in which they overachieved.
This time, you feel, the Dutch and the Italians would prefer to be elsewhere. The Nations League is not as prestigious a prize as the World Cup or the European Championship (which does not include this match). Coming first is still a success; third, less so.
That is especially the case when you consider this game comes at the end of a lengthy campaign which, if you include pre-season, has lasted for around 12 months already.
It will be interesting to see how the two managers approach the play-off. Will Ronald Koeman and Roberto Mancini go all-out for victory, or will they see this as a chance to try out fringe players or new tactics?
The Netherlands suffered a 4-2 defeat by Croatia in the semi-finals. The momentum was with them after they equalised in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but it was their opponents who triumphed in extra time.
As for Italy, they were edged out by Spain a day later. Joselu’s late strike was the difference between the sides, with la Roja running out 2-1 winners.
Which of these nations will claim the Nations League consolation prize on Sunday afternoon?
Netherlands vs Italy betting tips
The Netherlands could edge out Italy in the UEFA Nations League third-place play-off this weekend.
Netherlands to win – 5/4 (bet365)
The Netherlands are more likely than Italy to take this game seriously.
Firstly, they are playing on home soil. After losing to Croatia the players and staff will be keen to make amends in front of a largely partisan crowd at De Grolsch Veste.
Secondly, Koeman is new in the job – unlike his opposite number. He was in charge of the national team between 2018 and 2020 before leaving for Barcelona.
He returned after Louis van Gaal retired post-World Cup, but two of his first three games at the helm have ended in defeat.
Koeman will therefore be starting to feel a little bit of pressure, which makes it more probable that he names a strong side.
There were some positives to take from the Croatia performance, as the manager himself noted.
“We clearly had a team now that had the right energy, that put up a fight. That’s something we can build on,” Koeman said.
Conceding four goals for the second time in three games (they also did so against France in March) is a problem, but the Netherlands will be quietly confident of beating an Italy team going through a period of transition.
This is likely to be a close game, but we recommend backing the hosts to get the job done.
Over 2.5 goals and both teams to score – Evens (bet365)
A loss here would not be make or break for either Mancini or Koeman. The stakes are simply not high enough.
Whereas important matches tend to encourage risk averse football, a Nations League third-place play-off may well do the opposite.
The Netherlands will be cheered on by a home crowd and they will feel obliged to push forward and play on the front foot.
Even without Memphis Depay, who is sidelined with an injury he picked up at Atletico Madrid, the Dutch possess plenty of quality in forward areas.
Koeman opted for a front three of Donyell Malen, Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons, and that triumvirate caused Croatia problems.
Italy lined up in a 3-5-2 formation against Spain, with Nicolo Zaniolo pushed forward in support of Ciro Immobile.
Mancini could shift back to a 4-3-3 for the third-place play-off, as his post-match comments on Thursday suggested he was not entirely happy with his team’s use of the other setup.
“We were constantly under pressure in the second half and had we reverted to our typical 4-3-3 it may have been different,” he said.
Italy did create chances of their own and they will likely have more of the ball against the Netherlands, which should aid their attacking efforts.
Ciro Immobile to score any time – 13/8 (bet365)
Although the Netherlands are the favourites to win this match, the bookmakers have Ciro Immobile down as the likeliest scorer.
That makes sense. Depay is the Dutch’s attacking talisman, while Gakpo, Simons and Malen have scored 11 international goals between them.
Immobile’s record for Italy is not as good as his record for Lazio. His 56 caps have yielded 16 goals, a rate of 0.29 per game.
But Immobile is the type of striker who comes alive in the 18-yard box and the fact he took Italy’s penalty last time out is another reason to back him.
What is more, the Netherlands looked far from defensively secure in their defeat by Croatia. Koeman has yet to solidify the backline he inherited from Van Gaal.
It is not that the Dutch lack quality defenders: their squad contains Nathan Ake, Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt. However, Immobile can take advantage if the collective unit is unorganised on Sunday.
How to watch Netherlands vs Italy
- Location: De Grolsch Veste, Enschede, Netherlands.
- Date and time: Sunday 18 June 2023, 2pm.
- How to watch: Viaplay Sports 1.
About the author
Greg Lea is a freelance football writer from London. He predominantly covers the Premier League and has had work published by the Guardian, FourFourTwo, ESPN and others.
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