It's French flair but Dutch despair

Left: Antoine Griezmann scores France's first goal past Dutch custodian Jasper Cillessen. Below: France midfielder Thomas Lemar celebrating one of his two goals, as his team cemented top spot in their qualifying group with the 4-0 win.
Antoine Griezmann scores France's first goal past Dutch custodian Jasper Cillessen. PHOTO: REUTERS
Left: Antoine Griezmann scores France's first goal past Dutch custodian Jasper Cillessen. Below: France midfielder Thomas Lemar celebrating one of his two goals, as his team cemented top spot in their qualifying group with the 4-0 win.
France midfielder Thomas Lemar celebrating one of his two goals, as his team cemented top spot in their qualifying group with the 4-0 win.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Deschamps' men among favourites for Finals, while Advocaat's side look likely to miss out

PARIS • France coach Didier Deschamps could not help but shower his side with praise after their brilliant attack tore the Netherlands to shreds in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win on Thursday.

Thomas Lemar scored twice either side of goals by Antoine Griezmann and man of the moment Kylian Mbappe in the key clash at a euphoric Stade de France.

"We performed very well. Apart from one header, they created nothing, while we had loads of chances. It is hugely satisfying to see France play so well collectively," said Deschamps, after his side took a big step towards qualifying for next year's Finals in Russia.

The Euro 2016 runners-up are three points clear of Sweden at the top of qualifying Group A with three games to go, after the Swedes - who beat France 2-1 in June - lost 2-3 in Bulgaria on Thursday.

Rather than simply make it to Russia, though, the French should be one of the contenders to win the World Cup, such is their strength in depth, particularly going forward.

Griezmann and Olivier Giroud teamed up brilliantly in attack, while Monaco winger Thomas Lemar was superb aside from his two goals. Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman also excelled in his first international appearance since the Euro 2016 final defeat by Portugal.

Mbappe started the game on the bench after his loan move to Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco had been completed shortly before kick-off. Arsenal's record signing Alexandre Lacazette also came on for the French. However Ousmane Dembele, the recent Barcelona signing, was not in the squad at all.

Deschamps' biggest problem will be keeping all that talent happy and giving them game time.

"France have always had great attacking players. Don't start comparing them to others who played for seven, eight, 10 years and won titles," he insisted.

"There is a lot of quality, but at international level the demands are high, and these performances need to be built on.

"I am not going to complain about the abundance. We have young players who have lots of ambition, although there will perhaps be more difficult periods."

France can take another big step towards securing qualification when they face minnows Luxembourg in Toulouse tomorrow, while the Dutch are in real danger of missing a second straight major international tournament.

Absent from Euro 2016 in France, Dick Advocaat's side now lie fourth in the qualifying group after this result, their heaviest defeat in a competitive game in more than a century.

Qualification is still on, though - the Netherlands (10 points) are three points behind Sweden, whom they host in Amsterdam next month, and two behind Bulgaria.

Only group winners qualify automatically while the second-placed team will enter a two-leg play-off in November.

"We had no chance in this match. We didn't play well, and France thoroughly deserved their win," said Advocaat, whose side had Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman sent off just after the hour mark with the score at 1-0.

"Bulgaria's result could help us. We still have it in our hands. There are three games left, and if we win them, we will be in the play-offs."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'It's French flair but Dutch despair'. Print Edition | Subscribe