France 4 - 0 Netherlands: as it happened, goals, match report
France 4 - 0 Netherlands: match report
Wesley Hoedt frantically back-pedaled towards his own goal, and any doubt that this evening in Paris was all about Kylian Mbappé faded away. The 18-year-old dipped inside and out, toying with the Dutch defence. He laid the ball to Sidibé on the right, held his run, and waited for the ball to come back to him. Of course, it did, and the man-of-the-moment scored his first goal for France as Les Bleus closed out a 4-0 win over the Netherlands.
As the ball nestled in the bottom corner, mere hours had passed since Mbappé officially signed for PSG on a season-long loan from Monaco. He has been the dominant thread of the transfer window tapestry, and he is back in his home city. He settled in quickly.
Beyond the glow of Mbappé, France took a significant step towards qualification for the 2018 Russia World Cup. This commanding victory, coupled with Sweden’s defeat in Bulgaria, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side three points clear at the top of Group A, with their goal difference nicely inflated.
The home side pin-balled their way in to the lead after 14 minutes with neat interplay between Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann. A one-two cut through the line of orange shirts, and Griezmann, with blonde hair bobbing in his wake, calmly stroke the ball through Cillessen’s legs and in to the net.
France were always dominant, always dictating the rhythm of the match. N’Golo Kante was typically omnipresent in midfield, granting Paul Pogba the time and space to orchestrate play. Griezmann and Thomas Lemar, who was subject to late deadline-day interest from Arsenal, fluttered around between the Dutch defence and midfield.
Dick Advocaat, at the helm of the Oranje for the third time, became increasingly irate on the touchline. His side lacked life. They are a faded shadow looking back at what they once were. The Dutch approach – passing to Arjen Robben in the hope that he would create something – was bland and predictable.
The 69-year-old coach removed Wesley Sneijder at half time in an attempt to rejuvenate the midfield, but Kevin Strootman’s second yellow card after 56 minutes abruptly stopped any realistic chance of salvaging a positive result. Strootman arrived late on Griezmann, whose pained reaction prompted the Italian referee to reach for his pocket.
France continued to relentlessly attack, but without a ruthless edge. That changed after 73 minutes, as the ball bounced out towards Thomas Lemar on the edge of the box. He caught it at knee-height with a crisp swish of his left foot, and it settled in the top corner.
Lemar showed no indication that his attention was elsewhere. He scored his second goal in the 88th minute, pinching the ball off Lacazette’s foot to poke it in to the bottom corner. France were dancing through the remnants of the Dutch defence, and Mbappé was the star of the show in his 15 minute cameo.
The result was highly significant. France take a huge stride towards Russia, while the Netherlands look condemned to miss another major tournament. But all that was dwarfed by the red-carpet homecoming of a smiling Parisien teenager.