5 Things We Learnt From Netherlands 0-0 France
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5 Things We Learnt From Netherlands 0-0 France

22/06/24 07:18

In a lackluster game complete with a controversial VAR decision to disallow a rare Dutch foray forward, we take a look at 5 things we learnt from the Netherlands 0-0 France.

1. Poor finishing

Both sides had chances. It took about 30 seconds for the first opportunity to emerge, as Jeremie Frimpong raced through on goal and forced Mike Maignan into a save at full stretch. But you could tell that for both sides there was a clear lack of clinical edge.

France should have had 2 or 3 through Antoine Griezmann alone. He missed an albeit poor square ball from Adrien Rabiot with the goal gaping in the first half, and in the second period had a huge chance from 6 yards out set up by N’golo Kante, but hugely mishit his shot which trickled wide off the leg of Verbruggen. It is clear that Mbappe’s ruthless presence is missed for the French team, and they will hope that by the time the knockout stages roll around, their star man will be back to his explosive best.

For the Netherlands, who mostly played to nullify the French threat, their strengths come on the counter, and while they couldn’t put away their few chances today, there is still time to address their poor finishing this tournament in order to make the most of the knockout rounds.

2. Xavi Simons and VAR

I thought Xavi Simons improved massively on his below-par performance against group strugglers Poland. He was quick on his feet, press resistant, and made a couple of great passes to set up counter attacks and provide half chances to teammates. He even managed to get himself on the scoreboard … or he should have done.

Don’t get me wrong, VAR can sometimes be a very subjective decision, and sometimes the referee sees something that everyone else just misses. But Mike Maignan, who I thought had a great game (and we’ll talk about that later), is not going to save Xavi Simons half-volley whether an offside Denzel Dumfries is obstructing him or not. The goalkeeper didn’t even know that Dumfries was obstructing him until the ball was past him and into the net.

Referee Anthony Taylor is used to getting plenty of stick from fans in the Premier league, who see controversial decisions week in week out, and he is getting his fair share all over social media after that decision. I sympathize with him to some extent, but to not even watch the footage on the pitchside monitor after such a long wait to decide whether it was a goal or not is just not good enough, especially in such a high-profile game.

3. Keepers on top

Although careless finishing was predominantly to blame for the lack of goals, a word must be said about the two goalkeepers Bart Verbruggen and Mike Maignan. Verbruggen denied France’s biggest opportunity of the game when Griezmann managed to scuff his shot on target from 6 yards out, and however poor the strike was, it would likely have still found the back of the net but for the trailing leg of the Dutch Keeper.

Down the other end, Maignan had to spread himself wide to brilliantly keep out Memphis Depay from close range, and it was the follow-up from this save that birthed the controversial VAR call to disallow Simons half-volley rebound. Though that goal was ruled out, Depay’s would certainly have counted had Maignan not been alert to the situation.

Goalkeepers are usually left out of the conversation when fans and pundits discuss which squad is a likely contender for the Euro’s, but if both keepers save these kinds of performances for the knockout games, then both nations stand a good chance of going deep.

4. Dembele dominance

Dembele was one of the few bright sparks for France tonight. After a relatively subdued first period, he came to life from the moment the second period kicked off, and in the period between the whistle being blown to restart proceedings up to the Netherlands disallowed goal, he was almost single handedly responsible for a half hour period of dominance by the French.

Wicked crossing, quick skill moves, and his electric pace caused problems for center back come left back Nathan Ake, and it was a real surprise when he was substituted for Kingsley Coman in the 75th minute. Picking up the baton when Mbappe is missing, performances like that will go a long way in this tournament.

5. Favourites?

France are looking much more vulnerable than anyone expected when making their pre-tournament predictions. While it is still early stages, they are looking nowhere near as convincing as in the early stages of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they only finished runner-up thanks to a Lionel Messi masterclass.

The fact that none of their players have scored a goal in this tournament, and with their victory against Austria only coming via an unfortunate own goal, they simply do not look as dangerous as they did two years ago.

Knockout stages, which France have now almost certainly qualified for, could still bring out a different side to the team, but they are looking a long way from their best in the crucial qualification phase of the tournament.

Both teams now have until Tuesday to prepare for their next games, where Netherlands take on a buoyant Austria, while France get ready to face already eliminated Poland.

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Harry Pascoe

Football Writer

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