The 2023 UEFA Nations League has reached the final stages. We look ahead to this semi-final at De Kuip in Rotterdam with our Netherlands vs Croatia prediction and preview.
Netherlands vs Croatia Stats: Quick Hits
- The Netherlands are predicted as the more likely team to win this game inside 90 minutes, with a 47.3% chance of victory according to the Opta supercomputer.
- Dutch manager Ronald Koeman was a player in the 1988 European Championship title win, which is the only major honour won by the Netherlands.
- Croatia have lost just one of their last 15 international matches, that coming in the 2022 World Cup semi-final against eventual winners Argentina.
The Netherlands will be looking to win the UEFA Nations League for the first time this week, having come so close to success in the first edition back in 2018-19. Back then, the Dutch defeated England in the semis before losing 1-0 to Portugal in the final following Gonçalo Guedes’s goal.
Should Ronald Koeman lead his side to glory, it would be the Netherlands’ first international title since the 1988 European Championship – their only honour to date.
Croatia will be playing in the UEFA Nations League Finals for the first time, with this arguably the last chance for their ‘Golden Generation’ to win an international title. After going so close at the 2018 World Cup, where they lost in the final to France, and a third-place finish at Qatar 2022, Croatia will hope to defeat the Netherlands on Wednesday and progress to face either Spain or Italy in the showpiece.
Croatia reached the Finals after winning Group A1 ahead of Denmark, France and Austria, with a 1-0 away victory over Les Bleus a particular highlight. Their only defeat in the group was in the opening game against Austria (3-0).
The Netherlands won Group A4, dropping just two points from their six games (W5 D1 L0) against Belgium, Poland and Wales. None of the other 15 teams in Nations League A scored as many goals as the Oranje in the group stage (14).
Since then, however, the Netherlands have been thrashed 4-0 by France, which was an inauspicious start to Koeman’s second spell in charge. That chastening loss in Paris on 24 March ended a run of 20 matches without a defeat (excluding penalty shootouts). They did manage to defeat Gibraltar 3-0 three days later, but no less was expected against one of the European minnows.
Zlatko Dalić’s Croatia side have lost just one of their last 15 international matches – the 3-0 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Argentina at Qatar 2022. They started 2023 with a 1-1 draw at home to Wales, before a solid 2-0 victory in Turkey across their opening European Championship qualifiers.
Netherlands vs Croatia Head-to-Head
This will be just the third international meeting between the Netherlands and Croatia, and the first since February 2008.
In their last meeting, the Dutch, led by Marco van Basten at the time, defeated Slaven Bilić’s Croatia 3-0 in Split thanks to goals from goals from John Heitinga, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Their only other meeting in international football came in the 1998 FIFA World Cup third-place play-off match in Paris. Croatia defeated the Netherlands 2-1 to take bronze in their first ever World Cup as an independent nation thanks to first-half goals from Robert Prosinečki and Davor Šuker either side of a Boudewijn Zenden strike.
Netherlands: Xavi Simons
Xavi Simons is a name we expect to hear a lot this summer, with the attacking midfielder linked to a host of Europe’s top clubs following a brilliant season at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven.
He made our Eredivisie Team of the Season thanks to his displays, with the 20-year-old ending the 2022-23 campaign as the joint top scorer in the competition alongside FC Utrecht’s Anastasios Douvikas with 19 goals. With that tally, Simons became the youngest player (20 years, 37 days) to finish as the Eredivisie’s top scorer since Ronaldo – also at PSV – in 1994-95 (18 years, 252 days).
Simons’ tally of 74 successful dribbles was the second highest in the 2022-23 league season in the Netherlands, while only three players drew more fouls from opponents than he did (78). His ability to run with the ball at pace also saw him score eight goals following a ball carry, which was the highest number in a single Eredivisie season since Luc Castaignos in 2012-13 (also eight), playing for FC Twente at the time.
Simons’ talents will be even more important to the Dutch in the UNL finals this year, following the injury and withdrawal of the talismanic Memphis Depay.
Croatia: Luka Modrić
Luka Modrić is one of the finest footballers of his generation, but at 37 years old, the 2023 UEFA Nations League might be his final chance to win some silverware for Croatia.
The most-capped player in Croatian national team history (164), Modrić led by example in their impressive 2022 World Cup campaign. The Real Madrid midfielder completed the most passes in the opposition half (277), had the most ball touches (648) and won possession from opponents (51) more often than any other Croatian at the tournament.
Netherlands vs Croatia Prediction
The Opta supercomputer makes the Netherlands favourites to make it to the UEFA Nations League final on Sunday to face the winners of the Spain vs Italy semi-final. The Dutch have a 47.3% chance of progressing with a victory inside 90 minutes, while Croatia have just over a one-in-four chance of making it through without needing extra time or a penalty shootout (25.6%).
Netherlands vs Croatia Squads
Netherlands: Justin Bijlow, Jurriën Timber, Matthijs de Ligt, Virgil van Dijk (captain), Nathan Aké, Mats Wieffer, Steven Bergwijn, Georginio Wijnaldum, Cody Gakpo, Noa Lang, Xavi Simons, Lutsharel Geertruida, Mark Flekken, Sven Botman, Marten de Roon, Tyrell Malacia, Joey Veerman, Donyell Malen, Wout Weghorst, Teun Koopmeiners, Frenkie de Jong, Denzel Dumfries, Andries Noppert.
Croatia: Dominik Livaković, Josip Stanišić, Borna Barišić, Martin Erlić, Josip Šutalo, Lovro Majer, Mateo Kovačić, Andrej Kramarić, Luka Modrić (captain), Marcelo Brozović, Nediljko Labrović, Nikola Vlašić, Ivan Perišić, Mario Pašalić, Luka Ivanušec, Bruno Petković, Petar Musa, Borna Sosa, Dion Drena Beljo, Domagoj Vida, Josip Juranović, Ivica Ivušić (Marko Livaja & Joško Gvardiol both withdrew from the squad).