Netherlands vs. Italy: Final score 1-1, Dutch youngsters impress but Marco Verratti strikes late equaliser

Claudio Villa

Marco Verratti scored a late equaliser to give Italy a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands, after Jeremain Lens had put them in the lead.

The Netherlands had fielded a youthful and inexperienced side against Italy, and they impressed as they dominated possession and created a string of chances, but in the end Italy showed they have young talents of their own as Marco Verratti levelled the scores with a late equaliser.

The Netherlands got off to a decent start as they enjoyed the majority of pressure in the early stages, although both sides alternated in suffering from the symptom of seeing plenty of the ball but lacking the invention and will to create any chances.

The best chance of the first half came when Jeremain Lens showed good skill to work space before firing in a cross which Adam Maher met with a ferocious strike, but Gianluigi Buffon showed his class by producing a brilliant reaction save with his legs to keep the scores level.

Italy had clearly set up with a disciplined system designed to stifle the hosts when they had the ball, but ended up inviting too much pressure upon themselves. They had Buffon to thank again after the dangerous Maher met another cross which the keeper was forced to palm away, before also bailing his team out after Strootman marched up the pitch untracked to let fly with another good effort.

Despite the concession of chances, Italy did enjoy a couple of close efforts themselves when they did get up the pitch. Mario Balotelli wasted a fine opening after picking up a wonderful pass from Andrea Pirlo, but the new Milan signing attempted to find Stephan El Shaarawy in the box when he was better-situated to shoot himself, and the chance was wasted. Balotelli did not make the same mistake the second time after being found by Pirlo again, but his shot was wide of the post with Tim Krul beaten.

Shortly afterwards, the Dutch had a deserved breakthrough - with the Italy defence beginning to wobble, a failed clearance again landed at the feet of Maher, who seemed to be spending the entire game unmarked. His effort was blocked, but it fell to Lens, who crashed a fine shot in that even Buffon couldn't keep out.

Italy immediately mounted a few attacks to try and restore parity, with Ignazio Abate looking dangerous when let off the leash, but they were forced to go in at the break behind. Their response was to introduce Alessandro Diamanti for the largely-anonymous Antonio Candreva, while Andrea Pirlo was also replaced for Alessandro Florenzi. The Netherlands also made some changes of their own, taking off Robin van Persie and Jordy Clasie for Jonathan de Guzman and Arjen Robben.

The start of the second half failed to provide too many chances, and then with both sides making plenty of substitutions, what was left of a sting in the game largely fizzled out, although Jeremain Lens did once again go close, denied by yet another fine stop from Buffon.

Italy did enjoy a late period of pressure, aided by the introduction of Pablo Osvaldo - the Roma striker gave drive to Italy's previously-ponderous attack, but a one-two with Diamanti was halted by a tackle from De Guzman, and when he later had a sight of goal, his shot lacked power, and when presented with a fine chance to equalise on 90 minutes from the impressive Abate's cross, his header was poor.

Despite Osvaldo's wastefulness, it was left to one of Italy's youngsters to take advantage of their late pressure. It was a fantastic goal from Marco Verratti, playing a fine one-two with Alberto Gilardino before clipping a fine shot past Tim Krul to give the Italians a late equaliser.

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