Roberto Mancini's Italy navigated their way past an impressive Netherlands side in their high-profile clash in the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League. The Azzurri asserted their dominance early on in the game and kept the lion's share of possession, and although the Dutch came back stronger later into the game, it was too little, too late.
After a cagey first half, Inter midfielder Nicola Barella gave Italy the crucial breakthrough with just minutes left until the half-time whistle.
A slick sequence of interplay between Lorenzo Insigne, Jorginho, and Ciro Immobile down Italy's left created the opportunity for the goal as the Lazio man delivered a perfectly-weighted cross into the box for Barella. The Italians got their thoroughly deserved lead after nearly three-quarters of an hour of creating chances.
The Netherlands, who were unscathed in their encounter with Poland in their tournament opener, were relatively toothless on the night. Italian veterans Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini marshalled Oranje's attackers expertly throughout the game and helped their side survive a late onslaught from the hosts.
Everton striker Moise Kean saw a glorious opportunity to add further gloss to a dry scoreline by scoring a late second for the visitors, but spurned the chance from close range.
Overall, it was a thoroughly professional display on the night from Mancini's men, albeit not without their share of flaws. It was a frustrating outing in Amsterdam for the Dutch, who were usurped as the group leaders by the visitors on the night.
Here, let's take a look at some of the major talking points from Italy's win against the Netherlands at the Amsterdam ArenA.
#5 Nicolo Zaniolo's injury-stricken 2020 goes on
What a terrible year Nicolo Zaniolo has had so far. The 21-year-old is widely considered to be one of the most talented young Italians to have broken onto the scene over the last few years. Ever since arriving at the club from Inter, Zaniolo has established himself not just as AS Roma's crown jewel, but that of Serie A's.
However, the wonderkid has suffered an injury-stricken 2019/20 campaign. The talented Italian attacker has had to endure a total of nearly 175 days on the sidelines due to a Cruciate Ligament Rupture in early January. This injury saw him miss a large chunk of the football season.
In what was just his third competitive fixture in 2020 and only his second start, the Italian as forced off the pitch due to an injury in the 42nd minute of the game. Zaniolo did look rusty to begin with, giving the ball away cheaply on a few occasions and lacked sharpness in the final third. However, his injury is sure to be worrying news for both Italy and, in particular, Roma, as the domestic season is just around the corner.
#4 Italy's pressing caused Netherlands all sorts of issues
The Dutchmen looked largely untroubled against a Poland side that felt the absence of Robert Lewandowski in their previous outing. However, they faced an entirely different proposition against the Italians in Amsterdam.
Mancini set his side up in a 4-3-3 and instructed them to press the Dutch high up the pitch, which ultimately made the hosts quite uncomfortable playing out from the back.
Jasper Cillessen's distribution on the night was underwhelming, and the likes of Joel Veltman and Hans Hateboer frequently found themselves in awkward situations. Nico Barella and Manuel Locatelli were both constantly deep into the Netherlands' half, leading to the hosts giving the ball away under pressure.
Marten de Roon had to drop deeper on several occasions and did more of that in the second half, when the Dutch began to play through Italy's press. However, when Italy were under the cosh, they launched several counters towards the end created chances aplenty. One particular chance where Kean had the goal at his mercy should have been put away, but the ex-Juventus man fired wide.
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