Who are the four semi finalists of the 2022 UEFA Nations League?
The semi finalists of the 2022 UEFA Nations League are now set for their showdown and we take a look at each one.
With the final four of the 2022 UEFA Nations League now set, we take a look at who’s in, how they got there and who you should watch. Join us!
A look at the UEFA Nations League semi finalists
Though it was a rather dull affair, the Spanish - needing a win to advance - managed to claw their way past their Iberian neighbors Portugal with a 1-0 victory in Braga on Tuesday night. With that, La Furia Roja joins Croatia, defending European champions Italy and the Netherlands as the final four teams standing in the 2022 UEFA Nations League. Of course, it’s worth noting how each of the teams got there and moreover, what we should expect from them as they fight for a spot in the finals.
After they were put down at home 3-0 by Austria in their opening game, most thought the Nations League would be nothing more than a brief cameo for the 2018 FIFA World Cup second place finisher, but bit by bit they composed themselves and starting with a gritty 1-1 draw against France, they began to find their feet. A pair of victories against a plucky Danish team as well as a disciplined 1-0 victory in France and we knew were watching a team with that had title ambitions. By the time they carved out a 3-1 victory in Austria during the final 20 minutes, it was very much clear that Croatia would be one of the teams to beat in the tournament.
“In the end, the win was deserved,” said captain Modrić. “I am very happy we are in the top four.” Though he rotated quite a bit during the league phase, it’s clear that Croatia favors a midfield trio of Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović, with Ivan Perišić on the left. Expect more of the same in the semis. Indeed, even at 37-years-old Modric is still as good as it gets in the middle of the park, Croatia’s captain is as clever, sharp and tireless as he’s ever been and his ability to dictate the rhythm of matches is quite frankly second to none.
Having suffered that fateful loss to North Macedonia in the World Cup play-offs, one has to imagine that there is a need to restore some sense of pride to the nation. It’s not the norm that you have the European champions without a spot at the FIFA World Cup, yet such is the case with the Italians. None the less, Roberto Mancini’s men showed in the early that they had come to compete even when paired with EURO 2020 final opponents England and the ever-dangerous Germany. Though there were some nerves following a 5-2 defeat in Germany on Matchday 4, the Azzurri got back on the horse with two consecutive wins in September.
Much of that fight was courtesy of the goals provided by rising star Giacomo Raspadori. Interestingly, the Italians switched from their traditional 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 in their last two games, both of which ended in wins and more over clean sheets. As they prepare for the semis, they will no doubt be banking on the efforts of midfield maestro Marco Verratti. The PSG man can pull strings in the middle of the park with the best of them. Italian hopes will undoubtedly be resting on his shoulders.
As the only side to remain unbeaten through League A, one could say they saw this coming, but the Netherlands did have some struggles. Despite the drubbing they gave their neighbors Belgium in a 4-1 victory away, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Against Poland, they had to come from two goals down and against Wales, both of their wins came via goals in extra time. On the other hand, it has to be said that the Dutch answered each of the questions that were asked of them. Right down to their 1-0 win over the Belgians one last time to book a semifinal spot.
If there’s one thing about Oranje, it’s the versatility they have within their ranks. While they do play a midfield diamond with a frontal point and two roaming strikers, it’s clear that this side has a host of players who are comfortable changing positions. Between Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn, they’ve got themselves two players who are as fast as they are technical and extremely strong when posting against opposing defenses. On the other hand, perhaps their strongest and most important player is their central defender, Virgil Van Dijk. The Liverpool juggernaut is a natural leader who brings a cohesion to the team and even scores the occasional goal. His defensive prowess needs no introduction.
Following a surprise 2-1 loss to Switzerland at the weekend, La Roja knew that only a win would see them into the UEFA Nations League semifinals. Standing in their way were their Iberian neighbors, Portugal who entered the match knowing that a draw would book their ticket to the semis. In typical fashion, the Spanish dominated possession from early on and quite frankly did so for the duration of the match, but it must be said there were few chances between them.
Ultimately, the Spanish possession game was the difference, as all it took was one defensive lapse in the dying moments of the match and Alvaro Morata was able to crash the ball into the roof of the net from close range. With the 1-0 victory, Luis Enrique’s men are now into the final four and undoubtedly will enter the phase as possible favorites. The kings of ball maintenance are not easily thrown off their perch, but on the other hand, they have shown a lack of versatility when faced with stronger opponents. That’s to say, Spain’s Plan B is often more of Plan A.