Few footballing philosophies are as diametrically opposed as the Italian and the Dutch. At least in the perception of most outsiders, Italian football only concentrates on the result of the match – winning is all that counts, never mind how. The first Italian word to make it into the global football vocabulary was catenaccio. (Much later, ultra became the second.) On the other hand, Dutch football has a reputation for flair, for being attack-minded and catering to the public, as documented by a number of memorable World Cup outings (1974 and 1998 in particular) and European Championship appearances (1988 and 1992 above all). That style of play has earned the Dutch widespread if sometimes grudging admiration in other countries, notably England, Germany and Spain. But never in Italy. On the other hand, the Dutch press and public have never made a secret of their dislike of the way Italians tend to play football, and the three highly disappointing final tournaments the Dutch played in Italy (the 1934 and 1990 World Cups and the 1980 European Championship) have not helped.
The match which summarises the Dutch-Italian football relationship best must be the 2000 European Championship semifinal, played in the Netherlands. Desperate but eventually impotent Dutch attacking, gritty Italian defending at the cost of two (justifiable) red cards and the most horrific penalty shoot-out performance in a decade-long series of Dutch 12-yards disasters. It illustrated a bon mot from the greatest ever Dutch player, Johan Cruĳff: Italianen kennen niet van je winnen, maar je ken wel van ze verliezen – "Italians can't beat you, but you can lose to them".
Still, even if the overall record is heavily in Italy's favour (Oranje have never won a friendly match against the Azzurri), that semifinal was the first competitive match between the two countries which had Italy rejoicing at the end. Prior to a defeat in the UEFA Nations League in 2020, the four other competitive encounters went the Dutch way, including the 0-1 loss in 1975 – Italy had been out of the running before that match, thanks to a home draw against Finland (0-0 of course), while the Dutch knew before the match they only needed to avoid a 3-goal loss in order to finish first in the group, ahead of Poland; after Italy took a second minute lead (their third goal in six qualifying matches), the Dutch midfield froze the match.
Less than three years after that 'victorious' Dutch loss, the two met at the 1978 World Cup in what was effectively a semifinal. But while the Dutch came into the match with a 7-3 goal record from the previous matches against Austria and West Germany, Italy were (typically) on 1-0, implying the Dutch only needed a draw to reach the final (barring a five-goal German win in the parallel match in Córdoba, but Berti Vogts and Hans Krankl took care that that never was an option). Ernie Brandts scored an own goal, injuring Piet Schrĳvers, the first choice 'keeper, after only 19 minutes, but made partial amends by equalising himself early in the second half before Arie Haan let loose his second long-distance missile in as many World Cup matches, and after Sepp Maier also Dino Zoff was left wondering what had hit the net.
Since then, there have been a number of (more or less) friendly encounters, usually resulting in an Italian win, that cursed semifinal in 2000, and a very strange game at Euro 2008 in which Van Basten's team played both attractive and successful football for the first (and one but last) time during his 4-year tenure. The last three matches were all part of the new UEFA Nations League, and the Dutch are yet to win.
All matches listed are friendlies unless otherwise stated.
Game Date Venue Result Remark 1. 13- 5-1920 Genova Italy 1-1 Netherlands 2. 8- 5-1921 Amsterdam Netherlands 2-2 Italy 3. 2-12-1928 Milano Italy 3-2 Netherlands 4. 6- 4-1930 Amsterdam Netherlands 1-1 Italy 5. 20-11-1974 Rotterdam Netherlands 3-1 Italy [European Champ. Qual.] 6. 22-11-1975 Roma Italy 1-0 Netherlands [European Champ. Qual.] 7. 21- 6-1978 Buenos Aires Netherlands 2-1 Italy [World Cup] 8. 24- 2-1979 Milano Italy 3-0 Netherlands 9. 6- 1-1981 Montevideo Italy 1-1 Netherlands [Mundialito] 10. 16-11-1988 Roma Italy 1-0 Netherlands 11. 21- 2-1990 Rotterdam Netherlands 0-0 Italy 12. 26- 9-1990 Palermo Italy 1-0 Netherlands 13. 9- 9-1992 Eindhoven Netherlands 2-3 Italy 14. 29- 6-2000 Amsterdam Netherlands 0-0 Italy [aet, 1-3 pen] [European Championship] 15. 12-11-2005 Amsterdam Netherlands 1-3 Italy 16. 9- 6-2008 Bern Netherlands 3-0 Italy [European Championship] 17. 14-11-2009 Pescara Italy 0-0 Netherlands 18. 6- 2-2013 Amsterdam Netherlands 1-1 Italy 19. 4- 9-2014 Bari Italy 2-0 Netherlands 20. 28- 3-2017 Amsterdam Netherlands 1-2 Italy 21. 4- 6-2018 Torino Italy 1-1 Netherlands 22. 7- 9-2020 Amsterdam Netherlands 0-1 Italy [European Nations League] 23. 14-10-2020 Bergamo Italy 1-1 Netherlands [European Nations League] 24. 18- 6-2023 Enschede Netherlands 2-3 Italy [European Nations League]
Total record: Italy 24 11 10 3 33- 24 32 Netherlands 24 3 10 11 24- 33 16 Some more stats: Pd I D N IG- NG In Italy: 10 6 4 0 14- 5 In the Netherlands: 10 5 5 1 17- 13 Elsewhere: 3 0 1 2 2- 6
Italy - List of International Matches
Netherlands - List of International Matches
Prepared and maintained by Karel Stokkermans for the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
Author: Karel Stokkermans
Last updated: 6 Jul 2023
(C) Copyright Karel Stokkermans and RSSSF 2010/23
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