France 4-0 Netherlands: Mbappe leads the way to ruin Koeman's comeback

By Sports Desk March 24, 2023

France won their first game since their World Cup final defeat in style, beating the Netherlands 4-0 at the Stade de France to kick off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a bang.

Antoine Griezmann put France ahead early after he was teed up by the man chosen over him for the captaincy, Kylian Mbappe, before Dayot Upamecano doubled their advantage inside eight minutes after Jasper Cillessen made a mess of a free-kick.

Mbappe made it three before the halfway point of the first-half, before striking a fabulous second late on as Didier Deschamps' men strolled to an opening win in Group B.

The Dutch had lost several players in the build-up to the game with a virus, but will have been made even sicker by the start to their qualifying campaign and Ronald Koeman's second spell as head coach, with Memphis Depay seeing a late penalty saved to add insult to injury.

After all the noise about the France captaincy, it was somewhat appropriate that Mbappe fed the ball inside to Griezmann to side-foot low and hard to Cillessen's right to give the hosts a second-minute lead.

It was 2-0 soon after as Cillessen failed to deal with Griezmann's free-kick from the right, with the ball ricocheting off Upamecano and rolling through the Dutch goalkeeper's legs into the net.

Mbappe had his first goal as captain in the 21st minute when he played the ball to Aurelien Tchouameni on the halfway line, before racing towards to the left-side of the penalty area to get onto the Real Madrid midfielder's return pass – dummied by Randal Kolo Muani – before finishing calmly.

Koeman took action by introducing Manchester United loanee Wout Weghorst for Kenneth Taylor after just 33 minutes, and the Netherlands were at least able to avoid further damage despite never really testing Mike Maignan in the French goal.

That was until Depay's sloppy pass backwards found Mbappe, who teased Jurrien Timber and Daley Blind before firing across Cillessen to make it 4-0 in the 88th minute, while Depay saw his stoppage-time penalty saved by Maignan to wrap up a miserable game for the Dutch.

What does it mean? France eager to get going on the road to Germany

If Griezmann was disappointed by Deschamps' decision to give the armband to Mbappe, he hid it well as he scored after just a minute and 55 seconds.

It was the fastest goal for Les Bleus since October 11, 2006 when Louis Saha scored after 37 seconds against the Faroe Islands.

The Netherlands had 59 per cent possession, and 11 shots to France's 12, but their slow start gave them far too much to do.

Captain Kylian more than capable

France had not led by three goals this early in a game since December 17, 1953, against Luxembourg when it took just 10 minutes during an 8-0 drubbing.

Mbappe thrived in his first game as captain as he led from the front, taking five shots, four more than any of his team-mates, and making 18 passes in the opposition half, with only Tchouameni recording as many.

Koeman hopes the future's Oranje

The returning Dutch boss Koeman gave youngsters Lutsharel Geertruida, Xavi Simons and Taylor their first senior international starts, but it never felt like a game for inexperience, with Taylor barely lasting half-an-hour, albeit rather harshly.

It was the first time three players have made their full Netherlands debut in the same match since October 2015, and Koeman will be hoping that the experience for them, and the rest of the team, is at least a learning one.

What's next?

France head to the Republic of Ireland on Monday, while the Netherlands host Gibraltar the same day as Group B continues.

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    Joshua Zirkzee is reportedly drawing interest from Milan, Juventus and Manchester United, and will have the chance to further his stock after a late call-up for the Netherlands at Euro 2024.

    Oranje boss Ronald Koeman has lost Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners, as well as midfielder Marten de Roon, in the build-up to the tournament in Germany.

    Koeman criticised former club Barcelona for their handling of the injured De Jong before Koopmeiners' absence was also confirmed this week in another blow for the Netherlands.

    Ajax forward Brian Brobbey is another said to be struggling for fitness, forcing the Dutch to act swiftly with reinforcements.

    Zirkzee's inclusion was confirmed on Wednesday as the Netherlands added the striker to their international camp ahead of their tournament opener against Poland on Sunday.

    The 23-year-old does not have a single senior cap under his belt for the Netherlands, but did score seven goals in 19 caps for the Under-21 side.

    Zirkzee found the net 12 times in 37 appearances for Bologna in the 2023-24 campaign as the Serie A side qualified for next season's Champions League.

    That form has reportedly drawn interest from Erik ten Hag's Man Utd, Juventus – who appointed Thiago Motta as their new head coach on Wednesday – and Milan.

    Ian Maatsen, who reached the Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund this year, is the other man brought in for the Netherlands to fill the void left by De Jong and Koopmeiners.

    The Netherlands also face Austria and France in Group D at Euro 2024, where Germany open the tournament against Scotland on Friday.

  • Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024 Mbappe eyes completing international treble with France at Euro 2024

    Kylian Mbappe hopes to avoid any hangover from World Cup disappointment as the France forward searches for his elusive final international crown at Euro 2024.

    The Real Madrid-bound forward scored a hat-trick in the final of FIFA's global tournament in 2022, though that was not enough to stop Argentina from winning on penalties in Saudi Arabia.

    Another major tournament is on the horizon as the European Championship awaits in Germany, where Didier Deschamps' side rank as the favourites alongside Gareth Southgate's England.

    Euros success is the only glory missing from Mbappe's glittering resume, having won the World Cup in 2018 and the Nations League as well, though the 25-year-old hopes to end that this time around.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain told CNN Sport: "I want to win the Euros. I have to be honest. I won the World Cup. I won the Nations League.

    "That's the only one that missed me with the national team after I did everything with the national team. I really want to win this.

    "My first competition as captain, so it's really important for me and it's always important for the country and we want them to be proud of us.

    "[It's] another opportunity to write the history of my country."

    Mbappe endured a woeful tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France lost to Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out.

    Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with PSG and with his long-term future decided, few would back a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

    France open their group-stage campaign against Austria on Monday before facing the Netherlands and Austria in a testing pool.

    Mbappe believes Les Bleus can take the learnings from the last World Cup into their next quest for the European crown.

    "I think we have to move forward," the world-class forward added. "Of course, we were hurt, to see that you're close to something...

    "Close to the back-to-back. Something amazing. Something historic. Everybody loved the game except for us.

    "We didn't like that, but it's part of the game. Now, when I watch the video of the game, I watch with a smile because it's part of the history and we know what we have to do if we go again in the final.

    "We have to play all the game and have no reaction."

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    Ronald Koeman says Frenkie de Jong and Barcelona are equally responsible for the Netherlands midfielder missing out on Euro 2024 through injury.

    De Jong was ruled out of the tournament after failing to recover from an ankle injury sustained during Barca's Clasico defeat by Real Madrid on April 21.

    The 27-year-old was named in the provisional Dutch squad, but it was confirmed he would play no part following their final warm-up match against Iceland on Monday.

    Koeman initially criticised the Blaugrana's handling of De Jong's injury and, on Wednesday, said the issue "also depends on the player himself". 

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    "There is little point in answering questions about topics that are no longer current," he told reporters in Wolfsburg. "We haven't talked about it since we got here."

    "Of course, it also depends on the player himself. I have also spoken to Frenkie about this, but that remains between me and the player. I have a little more inside information, but I'm done with it now."

    Borussia Dortmund's Ian Maatsen was called up in De Jong's place, though Koeman opted not to draft in a replacement for Teun Koopmeiners, who was also ruled out of Euro 2024 with a groin injury.

    Explaining his reasons, the head coach said: "Ian was already in the pre-selection, he is a multi-functional player who has only been out of action for a week. All other options have been gone for three weeks, I don't know where they all are.

    "Within these 25 remaining players, we can go in any direction. We play with three midfielders and we have five. And you can always move someone one spot back, or someone from the back one line forward.

    "It will never be an excuse in this tournament, no matter what happens, not to have called up a 26th player."

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