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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