A Combative Nations League Draw Between Italy and Netherlands

The Nations League Group A was in action with pole position on the line for three teams. It was Poland who took the spot and now have a one-point advantage over Italy. 

The Polish side earned their billing after defeating 10-man Bosnia Herzegovina, while the Azzurri played another draw in successive games. Roberto Mancini will have to return to the drawing board to rethink his side’s tactics as the Italians looked toothless in attack. 

Mancini sent his team out to attack, and it was evidenced in their approach. They should have taken the lead in the second minute after Lorenzo Pellegrini was sent through on goal by Leonardo Spinazzola. However, the Napoli attacker’s shot was easily saved by Jasper Cillessen in the Dutch goal. 

Pellegrini was the architect in chief as he got in dangerous areas. However, his crosses could not find the intended targets. It would not matter around the quarter-hour mark. Ciro Immobile obstructed the Oranje defense to one side, which allowed Nicolò Barella to send Pellegrini one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He did not disappoint this time and hit the back of the net to make it 1-0. 

The goal roused the Dutch from their slumber, and they began to get into dangerous areas. But it was the Italians who should have made it 2-0 soon after when Ciro Immobile found himself in a great scoring position. It was another Spinazzola through ball that pierced the Dutch defense but the Lazio man could not get past Cillessen.

The Azzurri would rue their mistake soon after as Frank de Boer’s men equalized quickly after. The goal started with a squared ball from Daley Blind, finding Memphis Depay. The Olympique Lyon forward’s shot was blocked, but the rebound fell to Donny van de Beek who was at the right moment at the right time. He rifled the ball into the top corner to bring his side on level terms. 

The game opened up after the equalizer as both sides attacked each other. The Dutch grew into the fixture but did not threaten Gianluigi Donnarumma with a meaningful attempt. On the other hand, the Italians continued to be dangerous. Spinazzola should have scored from the edge of the box but Cillessen expertly saved his shot from a Pellegrini through ball.

It was the same story in the second half. The Netherlands had Italy on the back foot during transitions but could not make anything from their possession. It was the same at the other end of the pitch and Mancini’s men were more threatening with half-chances. 

Despite both sides enjoying periods of success, there were only two moments of note, one for each. The Dutch managed to get Donnarumma in action after Depay dribbled past the Italian defense for a shot on goal. The Milan youth academy graduate was alert and managed to get a hand to it. 

At the other end of the pitch, a Hans Hateboer defensive blunder sent Immobile through on goal. One on one with the goalkeeper, the European Golden Shoe winner should have buried the ball into the back of the net, but Cillessen again thwarted his effort. 

Both managers made changes to their team after the missed opportunities. Mancini’s substitutes made an impact with Moise Kean pick of the lot. The Paris Saint-Germain forward ran at the Nathan Ake and the Dutch defense, threatening to trouble the scorers. While his efforts would not come to fruition, his presence in the squad was justified despite a mediocre year in Everton colors. He also showed that neither Andrea Belotti nor Ciro Immobile can shoulder the scoring responsibilities on their own.

For the Netherlands, Joel Veltman’s presence brought about a tactical shift in their play. The Oranje smoothly transitioned from defense to attack and were difficult to catch. However, with only Depay leading the lines and no one to supplement his efforts, the Azzurri defenders did not break a sweat in dealing with threats.

If a draw is ever deserved, the 1-1 result was justified for both sides who return to their respective camps ruing their mistakes. Mancini will rue his side’s missed opportunities and bemoan Cillessen’s goalkeeping masterclass. Meanwhile, De Boer will question why his side could not transform their domination into tangible chances. 

Their 1-1 draw opens up League A Group 1 and the final two group games will be intense. Poland have seven points and are top of the table, followed by Italy with a point’s deficit and the Netherlands a point further behind.