Football: Playing world champions 'always a bit special', says Netherlands' Koeman

Netherlands' head coach Ronald Koeman (centre) speaks to his team players during a training session in Paris.
Netherlands' head coach Ronald Koeman (centre) speaks to his team players during a training session in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

SAINT-DENIS, France (AFP) - Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman says Sunday's (Sept 9) Nations League clash against world champions France will be "a bit special" in what will be his first competitive match in charge.

Koeman, who took over as successor to Dick Advocaat in February, is looking to reinvigorate the Dutch after they failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and this year's World Cup.

"We're going to play against the world champions, it's always a bit special but you also have to say it's all in the past," Koeman said at a press conference in Paris on Saturday.

"We're starting a new competition and it's down to us to show that we can challenge this team."

The Netherlands missed out on a place in Russia after coming third in their qualifying group, a campaign which included a 4-0 loss away to France just over a year ago.

"We'll have to fight in this match, but each game is different so you shouldn't look at last year's match," Koeman said.

"France aren't just anybody, they're a very good team and you need to be careful but try to play football and be very strong in defence. You can't play too open, that's for sure."

The Dutch are in a three-team Nations League group along with neighbours Germany, who drew their opening game 0-0 against France in Munich.

Memphis Depay scored both goals in a 2-1 friendly win over Peru on Thursday, but the Lyon forward doesn't feel an extra sense of responsibility after the retirements of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.

"The group feels very good. We've changed and we've improved. It's very important to have confidence as a group and we feel very confident. It's important for the continuity of this team," Depay said.

"After this change (of generation) the weight is on the team, not on me in particular because there are a lot of players in this team who play at big international clubs."

Koeman is hopeful the younger players he has at his disposal will be able to recreate the performances of the sides that reached the 2010 World Cup final, as well as the last four in Brazil, in 2014.

"These players (Robben, Sneijder, Robin van Persie) you've named are exceptional talents, but the players we have now also have talent," said Koeman.

"However, talent must develop and we can't say right now if they can reach the same level. But with work the talent may arrive."