Italy vs. Netherlands: Winners and Losers from International Friendly
On Thursday, Italy beat the Netherlands 2-0 in an international friendly.
For both sides, the match was special.
Italy saw new manager Antonio Conte make his debut on the touchline, while Guus Hiddink made his first appearance in the dugout as the new Dutch boss.
For Hiddink, it was anything but a dream start. Forced to finish the match with 10 men after defender Bruno Martins Indi was sent off after only nine minutes, Oranje lost 2-0, never standing a chance against the Italians.
It was a peculiar game of football, and it's difficult to come up with any positives the Dutch can take home with them.
Here, we examine all the evening's winners and losers.
Loser: Bruno Martins Indi
It was only an international friendly, but referee Sergei Karasev showed no clemency when Dutch defender Bruno Martins Indi lightly pushed an advancing Simone Zaza inside his own box.
The Italian forward had a clear goalscoring opportunity, and he had broken through the Dutch defensive line. According to the rules, it was a red card, and so Martins Indi was sent off.
Consequently, there wasn't much left to play for, and the Netherlands just seemed to give up on the rest of the match.
While it technically was a red card, what's the point of a friendly if a player is sent off after only nine minutes for giving someone a slight shove?
Winner: Antonio Conte
Sure, it's only a friendly, and there's still a difficult task ahead of him. However, what better way to start your stint as national team manager than a 2-0 victory against the team that finished third in the last World Cup?
It wasn't just Martins Indi's red card that saw the Italians through. Throughout the evening, the Azzurri were cool, calm and collected. Ultimately, the manager can be proud of that.
Whether Conte will manage to make Italy tick remains to be seen, but undoubtedly tonight will have instilled a bit of confidence in him.
Loser: Guus Hiddink
Conversely, the evening must have been horrible for Guus Hiddink.
After the side enjoyed a successful World Cup under a different leader, the new Netherlands manager will have wanted to make a strong start and inspire his troops.
The Dutch had played in a 5-3-2 formation in Brazil, but Hiddink implemented a more traditional 4-3-3.
Thanks to Thursday's result, it's impossible to claim Hiddink's switch was an immediate success.
All in all, it's safe to say Hiddink will want to forget the first match of his current stint as Netherlands boss as soon as possible.
Winner: Ciro Immobile
After a series of disappointing performances during the World Cup, new Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli was left out of the squad for the match against the Netherlands.
This gave Ciro Immobile a chance to prove his worth, and the Borussia Dortmund man didn't waste anyone's time. After only three minutes, he opened the scoring for Italy.
While the Dutch will want to forget about the match altogether, Immobile will probably recall it with pride for some time to come.
Losers: Lovers of 4-3-3
Much to the disgust of some fans, the Netherlands played in an unconventional 5-3-2 setup at the World Cup in Brazil.
The formation, deemed by critics to be too cautious and conservative and implemented by manager Louis van Gaal at the very last minute, marked a clear breakaway from the more traditional 4-3-3 Oranje usually use.
Against Italy, new boss Guus Hiddink attempted to bring the world-famous "Dutch school" back, and the Netherlands once again played with three midfielders and three forwards.
Unfortunately, the Dutch looked incapable of fashioning chances, and they were vulnerable at the back.
If Hiddink wants to persist with his offensively minded 4-3-3 formation, a lot of work will have to be done ahead of Euro 2016.
Winner: Robin van Persie
You'll have to look very hard to find a Dutch footballer able to look back at Thursday evening's events with some degree of satisfaction.
However, dig beneath the frustrations and the looks of anger and you might find a smiling Robin van Persie somewhere.
The striker, who is still on his way back to fitness after a depleting World Cup campaign, played a full 90 minutes. If nothing else, this will help him in his quest to return to top shape.
There's only one way to become fit, and that's to play matches. Undoubtedly to the delight of Manchester United, that's exactly what Van Persie did against Italy.
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