Netherlands vs Italy 2-3: Encouraging Win for the Azzurri

Italy ended their Nations League Final Four experience on a positive note as they beat the home country Netherlands 3-2 in the third-place playoff in Enschede.

After a lackluster second half showing against Spain, which costed the Azzurri the Final, Italy came up with a somewhat positive performance on Sunday, led by youngsters like Davide Frattesi (who tallied one goal and one assist) and Alessandro Buongiorno. Federico Chiesa, who scored Italy’s third goal, also appeared revitalized as he was deployed in his most performing role as a left winger.

Roberto Mancini made quite a few changes to his lineup compared to the game against Spain, switching back to a more traditional 4-3-3 setup. Buongiorno was deployed at center back alongside Francesco Acerbi, with Rafael Toloi switching at right back and Federico Dimarco (one goal for him today) patrolling the left flank.

Marco Verratti regained a spot at midfield, together with Bryan Cristante and Frattesi. The three-man front line featured Wilfried Gnonto, Mateo Retegui, and Giacomo Raspadori.

Italy broke the balance after just six minutes as they finalized for the best a brilliant team action. The winning touch came from Inter’s Dimarco, who fired the ball into the back of the net from a Raspadori back-heel service.

Less then fifteen minutes later, the Azzurri widened their gap. This time, it was Raspadori to pounce on the rebound from a Gnonto shot that was deflected by the Oranje defense, beating Justin Bijlow with a sharp conclusion.

The Netherlands appeared dazed and Gianluigi Donnarumma didn’t receive any threat until half time, the only shot coming from Cody Gakpo but ending off target.

After the restart, Italy began to lose control – just like a few days ago against Spain. The Dutch coach made three changes and his Oranje side started to make themselves more dangerous. Donnarumma saved from Gakpo, but couldn’t do anything on 68 minutes, when Steven Bergwijn found the right spot past him with a clinical conclusion at the far post which caught the Azzurri defense by surprise.

However, Mancini made the right substitutions this time, as he sent in Nicoló Zaniolo and Chiesa for Gnonto and Raspadori, who both appeared tired. The Juventus starlet, who looked comfortable in his natural position as a left winger, didn’t take much to repay the gaffer’s trust and doubled Italy’s lead again with a phenomenal solo action.

Roma’s Georginio Wijnaldum made it 2-3 in the dying minutes of the game, then Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini came close to score the fourth for Italy on the counter, but the score didn’t change anymore.

The Azzurri came home with a third place that might be insignificant when it comes to silverware, but gave Roberto Mancini quite a few indications for the future. The coach will need to rebuild his Italy from the likes of Buongiorno, Frattesi, Raspadori, and Retegui, as well as a Chiesa who – when deployed correctly – can be Italy’s trump card.

Italy will face North Macedonia on September 9 and then Ukraine three days later in the Euro 2024 Qualifiers, and that will NOT be a time for experimentation.