Netherlands v Croatia Predictions: Koeman's side can impress despite Depay's injury
13 June 2023
The UEFA Nations League semi-finals get underway this week and the first match-up will see the Netherlands and Croatia do battle in Rotterdam on Wednesday.
Netherlands qualified for the mini-tournament, which is being held on their soil, by winning their League A group that also included Belgium, Poland and Wales. They did so in impressive fashion - they took 16 points from a possible 18 and scored 14 goals along the way - and were perhaps the most impressive qualifying nation.
Their league campaign was led by Louis van Gaal, but the septuagenarian decided to retire after World Cup 2022. The Netherlands performed creditably in Qatar by reaching the quarter-finals, and they only suffered elimination on penalties by eventual winners Argentina.
Ronald Koeman is now back in charge of the national team after an earlier spell at the helm between 2018 and 2020. He inherits a talented squad, albeit one that will be without star forward Memphis Depay this month due to injury. Nevertheless, they remain a force to be reckoned with as Cody Gakpo, Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong remain in the squad.
Croatia burnished their credentials as perhaps the greatest overachievers in the international game at the World Cup. A third-place finish means they have now reached two semi-finals and one final since their debut in 1998, despite having a population of less than four million.
A less spectacular but equally commendable accomplishment was their triumph in a Nations League group featuring Denmark, France and Austria. Croatia’s national team arrives in the Netherlands as the underdogs - Smarkets traders price them at 6.4 to lift the trophy - but that is just how they like it.
After all, this is a squad that has shown extreme resilience and desire to overcome adversity before. There is a great fortitude to this Croatia side and manager Zlatko Dalic will trust his players to make life difficult for the hosts on Wednesday night.
There are doubts over the freshness of Croatia’s talisman, 37-year-old Luka Modric. This has been a gruelling campaign for full internationals and the midfielder is unlikely to be at his sharpest. An even bigger blow is the fact that Josko Gvardiol - the top-performing defender in the World Cup last winter - is on the treatment table.
Koeman will be keen to make a positive impression this week, especially as his first game back in charge ended in a 4-0 thrashing by France. With home advantage behind them and a gifted group of players to call upon, I fancy the Oranje to get the job done and advance to the final.
Netherlands v Croatia Predictions
Netherlands to win @ 2.06
13 June 2023