France 2-1 Netherlands
World Champions France made a triumphant return to Paris, beating the Netherlands in their first competitive match on home soil since the World Cup.
It was a dominant display against an improving Netherlands, and the fine margin of victory was testament to the visitors’ spirited performance. France could have been out of sight by half time after Kylian Mbappe’s opener, but the Dutch hung on and equalised through Ryan Babel before Olivier Giroud won the points.
And if you had any doubt the UEFA Nations League 2018 was to be a success then the 80,000 fans who packed into the Stade de France gave you the answer, as did a well fought and entertaining game.
The Netherlands have more optimism under Ronald Koeman than they have dared to show in the last four miserable years, and despite losing tonight they can take heart.
Highlights of the game
Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen knew he was in for a serious challenge in Paris; and he was called into action in the first minute when Paul Pogba found Kylian Mbappe on the right and the PSG striker shot from a tight angle, but Cillessen spread himself to save.
Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe were proving to be a real handful for the Netherlands defence, and they combined on 11 minutes for Mbappe to test Cillessen again. But there was nothing the keeper could do three minutes later when France attacked with pace and Blaise Matuidi crossed for Mbappe to shoot home from close range.
Memphis Depay scored twice in the Netherland’s comeback win against Peru last week, but coming up against the world class defenders Samuel Umtiti of Barcelona and Raphael Varane of Real Madrid was a different prospect. And the Lyon striker didn’t have a sniff in the first half as France dominated.
Mbappe, Umtiti and Olivier Giroud all had attempts saved and Koeman was pleased to get his team in for the half time talk, still in the game at 1-0.
The Netherlands had a good period of possession early in the second half, Daley Blind probing down the left flank and winning a corner, but the visitors were energetic without sparkling. Georginio Wiljnaldum had a chance from close range but his effort flew past the left hand post.
But then the Netherlands’ efforts were rewarded, on 67 minutes, when Kenny Tete crossed and Ryan Babel slotted low into the corner.
That seemed to spark the Dutch and Depay came close soon after, but they just couldn’t capitalise on their goal, or hang on to parity for long. Benjamin Mendy crossed for Olivier Giroud in the centre of the box, and the Chelsea striker fired into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1.
Depay tried his luck from distance and Ruud Vormer had an attempt saved as the minutes ticked away.
After its World Cup success France heads the FIFA rankings with the Netherlands in 17th, only two behind Germany after Joachim Low’s team plummeted 14 places.
Les Bleus were joint favourites to win the World Cup in Russia and the UEFA Nations League 2018 odds will tell a similar story, particularly after opening this campaign with a draw in Germany and a home win against the Netherlands
France has now won 14 of the 27 meetings between the two sides and the last five in a row. This is only the second game the Dutch have lost since Koeman took over, the first against World Cup semi-finalists England. And they had a good share of this game, with 46 per cent possession and seven shots to France’s 15.
But with eight shots on target to the Netherlands’ two, France had the cutting edge and Jasper Cillessen had a busy night.
So, after two UEFA Nations League 2018 results in Group A1, France drew with Germany last week, the table is beginning to take shape. Les Bleus are in good shape, top of the group, but the Netherlands can still make an impact if they continue to improve under Koeman.
Les Blues have a warm up against Iceland in October, before playing the return against Germany. The Netherlands will host Low’s team first, before continuing to test themselves against the very best with a friendly against Roberto Martinez’ Belgium. On this showing, they will give both a good game.
You can keep up with all the latest news, and track the odds right here at SBOBET as the tournament unfolds.
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