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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Van de Ven's Holland give France a run for their money in narrow 2-1 defeat



By Alessandro Schiavone at Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam


Micky Van de Ven's Netherlands slipped to a potentially-damaging 2-1 defeat at the hands of World Cup runners-up France in Amsterdam yesterday night.


It was not the Oranje debut the new Tottenham Hotspur talisman had hoped for but his country can take heart from a creditable result against arguably Europe's finest side.


In the end they lost but did so with their heads held up high.


The simultaneous absence of Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong, Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay would have thrown many a country off course but not the Dutch who showed courage in possession and always looked for a forward option.


The Tottenham centre-back replaced Man City's Nathan Ake with the Netherlands two goals down on 80 minutes. And only three minutes later Quilindschy Hartman reduced the arrears after a slick move and a brilliant one-two with Steven Bergwijn down the right.


In the end Kylian Mbappé's brace enabled France to qualify for EURO 2024 with two games to spare.


Ronald Koeman's side slipped to third in Group B after Greece did their job by beating Ireland yesterday and now have no choice but to get maximum points against Gustavo Poyet's hard-to-beat squad in Athenes on Monday. Yet they have a game in hand on their direct rivals with on-paper easy meetings with Ireland and Gibraltar still to come.


Yet things could get messy if they fail to win in two days and already-qualified France approach the fixture against the Euro 2004 winners on match-day eight in second gear.


Having said that, to beat France near-perfection is demanded. Being very good, which the Dutch were, is not good enough at this level.


The game was only seven minutes old when Mbappé connected perfectly with Jonathan Clauss' cross to send a crisp volley beyond Brighton & Hove Albion keeper Bart Verbruggen.


Having trashed Holland 4-0 in the reverse fixture it was clear that France had their opponents' number and a psychological edge on the game.


But Holland were not discouraged by the circumstances and the monster of opposition they faced.


Feeding off the positive energy and support generated by the Amsterdam public, the Dutch began to turn up the heat.


But Joey Veerman fired over from Inter Milan wingback Denzel Dumfries' cutback.


Then Xavi Simons had a shot deflected behind for a corner before he tried to catch out Mike Maignan with a low effort. Luck was not on the RB Leipzig ace's side as he tried to impress and match his friend Mbappé.


Viewed by many as the best goalkeeper in the world, the Milan keeper almost fumbled a routine save when the lively Hartman had a crack from distance. But the Milan keeper reacted quickly enough to collect the ball behind him.


And like so often in football if you don't take your chances, others will.


Mbappé opened up his body to curl in a stunning effort to put daylight between the two sides on 53 minutes.


Undeflated by the 2-0 goal deficit, Holland still fancied their chances.


Donyell Malen's quick thinking proved a manna from heaven for the Dutch who were looking to make the improbable happen. On 82 minutes, the Dortmund winger collected the ball on the edge of the box, took France's  defence out with a swivel before taking aim with a left-footed effort that flashed just wide. A minute later Hartman scored from close-range to set up a grandstand finale.


Yet it was France who came closer to scoring the fourth goal of the game as Mbappé was denied by the crossbar four minutes from time before Van de Ven crucially blocked Marcus Thuram's attempt deep into stoppage-time. Ex-Chelsea and Arsenal marksman Olivier Giroud also had a good chance to make it 3-1 but his chip had too much power and not enough dip.


All things considered 1998 and 2018 world champions France were worthy winners as they had a stranglehold on the game and created the best chances.


But if Van de Ven's Netherlands turn up in Athenes with this spirit, togetherness and never-say-die attitude they will win and go to Germany next summer.


Line-ups


France


Maignan, Clauss, Konaté, Lucas Hernández, Theo Hernández, Griezmann, Tchouaméni, Rabiot, Coman, Kolo Muani, Mbappe



Netherlands


Verbruggen, Geertruida, Van Dijk, Aké, Dumfries, Reijnders, De Roon, Veerman, Hartman, Weghorst, Xavi Simons




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