Four of the top ten ranked countries in world football currently will converge in the Netherlands as the third edition of the UEFA Nations League with the semifinal fixtures, which starts on Wednesday.
Hosts, Netherlands are ranked in sixth place, followed by Croatia (seventh), Italy (eighth), and Spain (10th). The holders of the competition, France, who won it in 2021, failed to qualify for the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the race for a third consecutive new winner will start with hosts the Netherlands playing Croatia on Wednesday before Italy and Spain battle on Thursday. While Croatia topped Group 1, had Denmark, France, and Austria, the Netherlands beat Belgium, Poland, and Wales to the playoffs spots.
The Dutch reached the quarter-finals of the world cup in Qatar, where they lost on penalties after a pulsating 2-2 draw, while Croatia fell to the Argentines, who went on to win the competition but in the semifinal and finished third, beating Morocco.
Meanwhile, Netherlands Defender Virgil van Dijk said that it is going to be a difficult game, especially looking at the energy level remaining at the end of the season to play the competition, although that doesn’t stop them from trying to win it after emerging as a losing finalist previously in the same competition.
“It can be difficult finding the energy at the end of the season, but in our case, almost 10 of our squad have already experienced a Nations League final and want to win it. After losing the final against Portugal, we realized that we should have handled it better. It was the first edition; we didn’t really know how or what. Now the feeling is definitely there. We’d like to win the prize, although Croatia is a tough team to beat.” Virgil van Dijk, said.
Whoever emerges winner would qualify for the final scheduled for June 18, awaiting the winners of the Spain versus Italy tie.
Daniel Ademiju Idowu