Preview: Netherlands vs. France

A battle of the Group D behemoths headlines Friday’s Euro 2024 fixtures, as the Netherlands and France pit their wits against one another at the Red Bull Arena for the right to guarantee last-16 progression.

Ronald Koeman’s men fought back from a goal down to sink Poland 2-1 in their opening affair, while Les Bleus also scraped a narrow success over Austria, albeit one that was marred by an injury to their star man.

Match preview

The absence of marvellous marksman Robert Lewandowski initially did not harm Poland’s chances of claiming a shock scalp over the Netherlands in their Group D opener, as his capable deputy – Adam Buksa – glanced a terrific header into the far corner with just 16 minutes gone.

However, the Netherlands responded in just 13 minutes as Cody Gakpo’s deflected effort deceived Wojciech Szczesny, and with a mere seven minutes of normal time remaining, Wout Weghorst wrote his own hero arc with a thumping low finish to complete the Dutch turnaround.

Koeman was more relieved than anything else to see his bold tactical decision pay off – the ex-Barcelona boss admitted that he considered playing Memphis Depay behind Weghorst but ultimately substituted the former for another Manchester United flop, whose winner propelled Oranje to the summit of Group D.

Leading the way over France courtesy of their superior goals scored tally, the Netherlands will guarantee themselves a top-two finish by winning Friday’s match, which would also represent their fourth straight victory after 4-0 friendly thrashings of Canada and Iceland in their warm-up fixtures.

In fact, a 2-1 friendly defeat to Germany in March is the only reverse that Koeman’s men have suffered in their last eight battles – underlining their status as a genuine competitor for Euro 2024 glory – but their upcoming opponents certainly had their number in qualifying.

Before being quickly reunited with their Dutch foes in the same finals section, France eased to a 4-0 battering of Oranje at home and also scraped a 2-1 victory in the preliminary section, leaving Didier Deschamps’s men with history firmly on their side this week.

As was the case with the Netherlands, Les Bleus’ opening success of the tournament – a 1-0 victory over an in-form Austria thanks to Maximilian Wober’s own goal – did not come without a strenuous effort, although they could have usurped Oranje into first place had Kylian Mbappe not spurned a glorious one-on-one.

While the Real Madrid new boy could not smash the ball home on that occasion, he sparked serious concern when he smashed his face into the shoulder of Kevin Danso, receiving a broken nose and a yellow card for his troubles; he came back onto the pitch without permission amid a substitution farce.

However, Mbappe’s assist for Wober’s own goal means that second-placed France will also be through to the last 16 with victory on Friday, and Deschamps’s men have found a resilient defensive streak when it matters most, recording three clean sheets on the spin.

By doing the double over the Dutch in qualifying, France followed the established pattern between the two nations; they have won seven of their last eight matches against the Netherlands, although Oranje have triumphed in their last two at the Euros finals, including a 4-1 demolition in the 2008 group phase.

Team News

No injury concerns arose for the Netherlands during their hard-fought win over Poland, and as Brian Brobbey – absent from that victory with a hamstring problem – is now training with the team again, Koeman should have every man available to him.

The only minor quandary for the Oranje boss might come in midfield, as Joey Veerman’s yellow card on Sunday means that he will incur a one-game ban if he is booked here as well, but Koeman should not take such hypotheticals into account for a match of this magnitude.

The Netherlands coach has not completely closed the door on Weghorst’s chances of starting after his late heroics over the weekend, but Depay – five shy of equalling Robin van Persie’s record 50 goals for the men’s team – should continue to hold off his colleague for the time being.

Speaking of attacking predicaments, Bleus fans have been anxiously awaiting news on Mbappe, who was left sporting a bloody nose and shirt after the Danso incident, but the ex-Paris Saint-Germain attacker could still feature in the latter stages of the tournament with a protective mask.

However, French media have reported that Mbappe will have to sit out Friday’s crunch clash, and Deschamps is expected to call upon record goalscorer Olivier Giroud to fill the void; the 37-year-old has been dealing with some groin pain, but nothing that should impact his availability.

Eduardo Camavinga (ankle) and his Real Madrid teammate Aurelien Tchouameni (foot) are also expected to be given the green light to play, but neither should displace N’Golo Kante, who rolled back the years against Austria with an industrious midfield performance.

Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Verbruggen; Dumfries, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Ake; Schouten, Veerman; Simons, Reijnders, Gakpo; Depay

France possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Kounde, Saliba, Upamecano, Hernandez; Kante, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Thuram; Giroud

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