By India Today Sports Desk: The Twente Stadium witnessed an intense battle on Sunday as Italy clinched the consolation bronze medals at the Nations League finals, securing a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands in the third-place playoff. The Italian team's triumph added to the disappointment of the host nation, the Netherlands, who had a challenging week.
Italy started the match with an explosive burst of energy, taking an early lead in the sixth minute. Federico Dimarco displayed impeccable accuracy as he thrashed the ball into the net from the far post. The Italian side continued to dominate, extending their advantage in the 20th minute when Davide Frattesi calmly slotted the ball home from close range, leaving the Dutch with a mountain to climb.
However, the Netherlands mounted an impressive comeback in the second half, making three attacking substitutions during halftime. They unleashed a relentless offensive onslaught, putting Italy's defense under immense pressure. Steven Bergwijn ignited hope for the Dutch team when he pulled a goal back in the 68th minute.
Italy responded swiftly, reaffirming their dominance with a swift counterattack in the 73rd minute. Federico Chiesa capitalized on the opportunity, restoring Italy's two-goal lead with a clinical finish. Nevertheless, the Dutch fought valiantly until the end, with Georginio Wijnaldum finding the back of the net in the 89th minute to give his team a glimmer of hope. Despite nine minutes of stoppage time, Italy showcased remarkable resilience and managed to withstand the relentless home pressure, securing the victory.
Italy's triumph began with an electrifying start, showcasing their fluid passing ability. Giacomo Raspadori initiated a sequence of quick passes, cleverly backheeling the ball to Dimarco, who unleashed a thunderous strike into the net. The unexpected goal silenced the home fans, leaving them in disbelief. Fourteen minutes later, fortune favored Italy once again as Frattesi pounced on a fortunate rebound, chesting the ball down before finding the back of the net.
The Dutch team, transformed after the break, pushed Italy to their limit in the second half. Italy's goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, showcased his skill and agility, denying Cody Gakpo with an impressive save. Gakpo, however, redeemed himself by assisting Bergwijn in scoring the Netherlands' first goal. With composure, Bergwijn skillfully maneuvered the ball from his right to left foot before firing it past the Italian goalkeeper.
Italy quickly regained their momentum as Chiesa embarked on a solo run from deep within his own half in the 73rd minute. Exploiting the Dutch's eagerness to find another goal, Chiesa cleverly slotted the ball inside the far post, catching the opposition off guard and restoring Italy's two-goal advantage.
Despite Wijnaldum's late goal rekindling hopes of a dramatic comeback, the Netherlands fell short in their quest for victory. Their aspirations of home success in the tournament were dashed following a 4-2 defeat in extra time to Croatia in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
Italy, on the other hand, suffered a heart-wrenching loss to Spain in their semi-final match on Thursday, conceding a last-minute goal. The final showdown between Croatia and Spain took place in Rotterdam later on Sunday, while Italy celebrated their hard-fought victory, claiming the bronze medal in the Nations League finals.