Croatia completed a second-half comeback against the Netherlands to secure a place in the 2023 Nations League Final. The Dutch side took a lead into halftime at home and then added a late equalizer, but would eventually fall in extra time. Croatian captain Luka Modric scored a late penalty to secure the 4-2 victory for the team.
The match in Rotterdam started slowly, as neither goalkeeper had much to do in the opening 20 minutes. There was officially only one total combined shot taken during this timeframe. Midfielder Mats Wieffer, making his only second career appearance for the Dutch, had an early shot blocked by a defender. Xavi Simons created the best chance in the opening part of the first half, but Dominik Livaković collected the cross before it could do damage.
Dutch team takes lead after slow start
Nevertheless, the match picked up the pace and the Netherlands grabbed the lead in the 34th minute. After some slick passing by the Dutch, Wieffer found a wide-open Donyell Malen inside the box. The Borussia Dortmund forward then struck an angled shot passed Livaković’s far side and into the back of the net. It was Malen’s first international goal since October 2021.
Back-and-forth second half needs extra time
With the match seemingly under control, the Dutch gave away a silly penalty kick out of practically nothing. Forward Cody Gakpo grabbed and pulled down veteran midfielder Luka Modric inside the box in the 54th minute. The match referee pointed to the spot right away. Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric then calmly placed the ball straight down the middle passed a diving Justin Bijlow.
Croatia then took the lead over the Netherlands less than 20 minutes later. The team known for second-half surges grabbed the goal as both wide attackers linked up. Luka Ivanušec picked up the ball out on the left side and sent a low cross towards the middle of the box. Mario Pašalić latched on to the pass and neatly placed a shot into the net from close range.
The Netherlands would, however, grab a late shocking goal in the 96th minute to tie the match with just 15 seconds left of stoppage time. After chaos inside the Croatian box, second-half substitute Noa Lang placed a shot over the keeper and into the roof of the net. Croatia had opted to fall back and defend, but the move would ultimately not work out.
Croatia through to Nations League Finals
With the game going to extra time, Croatia took the lead back just eight minutes into the period. The goal essentially came during a lull in the match. Bruno Petkovic hit a gorgeous long-range strike from outside of the box to put his team back in front. The midfielder used pace and placement to put the ball passed Bijlow in goal.
Modric added another goal for Croatia when he converted a penalty in the 117th minute of the match. It was his 24th international goal in his 165th total appearance for the team. Croatia will now play the winner of Italy and Spain in the 2023 Nations League Final on Sunday, June 18th.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ANP
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