We played many classic games vs the French. 28 matches in total, we won 10 of them, we lost 13. Only 4 matches ended in a draw. The goal difference is ours though: 54-47.
The big thing though, we lost the last five matches against them. That is a sorry tale. And France is the only opponent against which this happened.
For Holland, anything is possible in this Nations League. We can finish third and get relegated, or we could top the group. All to play for. After 17 months, we finally have a game in De Kuip again. The last 14 matches we played there, we won. The last draw was in 2007, against Romania and our last defeat was in 2000, losing 0-2 vs Portugal under Louis van Gaal. Mathijs de Ligt was just 1 year old then.
Should we win the group, we will be part of the first Nation League final tournament. At this point, no nation is certain yet of the spot in that tournament. Should we draw against Germany, we are certain of a longer stay in the Division A.
The top ten of the final table will result in the group heads for the Euros 2020 qualification. And this is exactly what Koeman is focusing on. At the moment, we are on No. 9, with Iceland (number 12) already not longer capable of overtaking us. Should we beat France, we’re quite certain to be group leader for the Euros qualification.
Anyway, France… How to beat them?
France won the World Cup and France is capable to field 4 equally strong teams with eleven amazing players, if they wanted to. They have some of the most exciting and best forwards (Martial, Lacazette, Mbappe), the most exhilarating midfielders (Griezmann, Pogba, Kante), one of the best goalies (Lloris) etc etc.
However, their game plan is never exciting. They conceded 16 goals this calendar year. They were lucky vs Australia at the World Cup they only scored once vs Peru and got a boring draw against Denmark. It’s a counter team, a team that re-acts, not so much acts.
The only exciting World Cup memory of France was when Argentina happened to lead with 1-2 by a fluke and France had to play football.
Deschamps is the type of coach that knows that his team will be most vulnerable if they lose possession. Statistically, most goals are conceded only seconds after losing possession. So he almost gives the ball to the opponent voluntarily, so France can be the counter-attacking team in the match.
For a top team, practically conceding one goal per game is quite bad.
Goal #1 Colombia – Luis Muriel
In the first friendly of the year, Colombia’s Luis Muriel has the opportunity to cross the ball in from the left wing. France’ full back Sibide simply offers to much space to the winger and his cross results in chaos in the French box. Sanzchez flies in to try and volley the ball in but misses. Lloris realises the cross will curl in, but he does so too late. Remarkable: there are nine French players in the box (incl the goalie) but none can stop the ball from curling in.
Goal #2 Colombia – Radamel Falcao
The second Colombia goal is the typical example goal Deschamps wants to rule out. France is in possession, Kante in midfield is looking for the outball. He wants to play in Matuidi but is too late. He’s put under pressure, the pass is too late, the Colombian midfielder Sanchez plays James in who finds Falcao for a tap in. This goal epitomises everything Deschamps loathes.
Goal #3 Colombia – Juan Quintero
Counter attack by Colombia. France is tracking back. Full back Sidibe is in front of the ball and Varane decides to step up to put pressure on Izquierdo. The latter shoots, gets the ball back from a ricochet and ends up penetrating the French box. Umtiti wants to block or tackle but gets it wrong. He misses the ball but gets the right leg of Izquierdo and the ref points to the spot.
Goal #4 Russia – Fyodor Smolov
France loses possession and six French players track back. Wingback Smolnikov bombs forward and crosses the ball to the left flank where Smolov has a simple finish. What is striking, is the complete chaos in the French defence. Umtiti is ball watching on the edge of the box. Tolisso is too late back. France is in disarray.
Goal #5 Italy Leonardo Bonucci
Again, France loses the ball and Italy is on the turn around. Two Italians vs four French players. Balotelli wants to take on Kante, and feels Umtiti in his back. Balotelli acts Comedia Del’ Arte and gets the free kick. The ball is hit with force straight at Lloris who flaps at it and allows Bonucci an easy tap in. Again, Umtiti’s wild defending and Lloris’ sloppiness are on display again.
Goal #6 USA Julian Green
France is dominating in the game and could have had 4 goals in the first half. Still, Team USA gets the first goal. By accident, the US right back Moore gets the ball in his stride as a result of an unlucky Kante block. He crosses the ball to the penalty spot. Sidibe wants to clear the ball but slips and Julian Green shoots on goal from a difficult angle. The ball goes through Sidibe’s legs and in the near corner, where Lloris again looks weak.
Goal #7 Australia Mile Jedinak
France gets the first goal after a debatable VAR decision. When Australia gets a free kick, Pogba alone forms the wall. There are eight French players in the box, keeping an eye on 5 Aussie players. When Mooy aims the ball in no mans land between last line of defence and the goalie, Umtiti panics and flaps at the ball. The Barcelona defender’s third questionable action. France would win this thanks to a fluke goal, which just passed the goal line by half an inch.
Goal #8 Argentina Angel di Maria
France is leading and decides to allow Argentina the ball. The French are close to their own box and are happy for Messi and co to dribble and play away from the box on the flanks. When Tagliafico gets a throw in, the ball ends up with Angel di Maria, some 35 meters from goal. He gets time to shoot and pick his angle. A world class goal, yes, but one wonders: why did France pull back this much and why wasn’t there any pressure on the ball?
Goal #9 Argentina Gabriel Mercado
A fluke goal, but the result of France offering Argentina the ball. Di Maria is instructed to go one on one with the young French defender, winning a free kick. The free kick ends up with Messi who shoots on goal and via some pinball ricochets past Umtiti – him again – the ball is deflected by Mercado and goes into the net.
Goal #10 Argentina Sergio Aguero
It’s 4-2 now. Pavard had a wondergoal and Mbappe demonstrated his value, twice. Only 22 minutes to go, for France to hold on to the score line. Griezmann and Mbappe are already subbed and France uses the two forwards to be annoying, with two blocks of 4 players behind them. Messi sees a gap in the box, as Varane leaves too much space. The cross is pitch perfect and Aguero scores a relatively simple goal. In the last minutes of the game, France is clearly rocked and struggling to keep Argentina from equalising.
Goal #11 Croatia Ivan Perisic
France is leading 1-0. Pavard loses the ball by playing it too far ahead and wants to make good by putting pressure on the opponent. The Croatian defender Vida decides to hoof the ball forward. Mandzukic heads the ball forward and Perisic is off. Kante recognises the danger and fouls the winger. The free kick results in Hernandez losing the first header while Umtiti loses the second and Perisic gets the ball on the edge of the box. He takes on Kante and scores with his left.
Goal #12 Croatia Mario Mandzukic
The finals are done. France leads 4-1. Mandzukic believes in it, though and puts pressure on France. He runs on to Umtiti and when he plays the back pass, the Juve forward puts pressure on Lloris. The Spurs goalie wants to take Mandzukic on and trick the forward. He fails and Lloris again is involved in a goal that didn’t need to happen.
Goal #13 The Netherlands Ryan Babel
Again, a goal scored in the turn around. Tete has the ball. Mendy puts pressure on Tete who uses Depay – who dropped deep – for the 1-2 combination. The Lyon defender uses the space vacated by Mendy while Babel makes a run to get into the space vacated by Memphis. All in high intensity. The cross is perfect and Babel’s finish is too. Holland uses the French tactics – slowly putting the opponent to sleep and then pounce – to great success.
Goal #14 Iceland Birkir Bjarnason
A friendly vs Iceland. Deschamps uses different players, offers players a chance who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time. Pogba and Kante are rested. The result is chaos. France has most possession, 64%. But Iceland has the opportunities. Iceland defends en groupe and waits for the mistakes and errors. Finnbogason is too slick for Kimpembe and passes the ball to Bjarnason who passes the ball into the net.
Goal #15 Iceland Kari Arnason
Varane stays in the dressing room at half time and Zouma comes in for the Madrid centre back. Iceland’s major weapon, the dead ball situation. Sigurdsson crosses the ball in, perfectly. Arnason makes a run into the space and beats Kimpembe. Only 30 mins to go and Iceland is leading 0-2. Deschamps immediately brings his talisman Mbappe. The youngster turns the 0-2 scoreline into 2-2.
Goal #16 Germany Toni Kroos
This goal is again a typical French goal to concede. France wants to play out of the back via the central axis. Kimpembe passes the ball to Pogba which is the sign for Germany to put pressure on. Kroos flicks the ball away from Pogba, Gnabry takes the ball and passes into Sane, on full speed. Kimpembe wants to control the damage with a wild tackle to block the ball and handles it. Kroos converts the penalty.
Who will play vs Holland?
Mendy, Hernandez, Umtiti, Pogba, Tolisso, Martial, Lacazette and Coman will all be absent due to injuries. It seems Deschamps will use the World Cup winning line up bar three players. Digne will probably play for Hernandez on the left flank, and Kimpembe will probably play for Umtiti. Griezmann will most likely annoy Frenkie de Jong, while Giroud will be stepping on the toes of Van Dijk and De Ligt. Giroud is Deschamps go to striker, not so much for his goals, but for his work ethics.
Lloris is a top line goalie with sensational reflexes but at times he becomes almost clownesque when having to leave his goal area. Kimpembe is quick and strong but doesn’t play a lot at PSG. Right full back Pavard is usually a centre back with his club Stuttgart. He’s weak in the one on one and has trouble making the right decisions in terms of positioning.
Without Pogba, all creativity is gone from midfield. Kante is world class as box to box player and tackler but he’s not the playmaker and takes too much time when under pressure. N’Zonzi will play for Pogba but he also is not your typical creative 10. Deschamps goes for control and Holland will want Kante to be the man for the build up.
I personally believe Holland will stop the rot against France. No defeat this time. I go for a win, but it could end up being a draw. We’ll take either.
I believe we will be sharp, eager and aggressive. I can see Memphis score again and Bergwijn too this time. I think we’ll play with:
Babel – Memphis – Bergwijn
De Roon – Wijnaldum – De Jong
Blind – Van Dijk – De Ligt – Dumfries
I will predict a 2-1 win for Oranje. All goals by us. Own goal De Ligt, for the fun of it.