The Netherlands suffered defeat away to France in a do-or-die qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Thursday’s match at France’s national stadium ended in a convincing 4-0 victory for Les Bleus, who retain their pole position in Group A. They are now six points ahead of the Netherlands.
This, their third loss in Group A, leaves the Netherlands with much to do to ensure that they do not miss another major tournament, after their failure to qualify for Euro 2016. Dutch hopes were kept alive, though, by Bulgaria, who beat their main rivals, Sweden, 3-2 in Sofia.
Technically superior, France capitalized on their home advantage and firmly took control of the match in the first 15 minutes, when Antoine Griezmann set up a neat one-two with Olivier Giroud on the edge of the penalty area. The Atlético striker cut through the Dutch defence and cleverly slotted the ball between Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen's legs from six metres.
Didier Deschamps’ men didn’t let up in the second half, and their attacking fury immediately produced some hectic scenes inside the Dutch box. Matters were made worse after 61 minutes when Kevin Strootman was sent off after what looked like an innocent foul, if any, on Griezmann.
Down to ten, the Dutch missed a great opportunity to equalize when Arjen Robben’s header was blocked on the line. Five minutes later, though, one of France’s biggest talents Thomas Lemar fired home from the edge of the box just inside the far post to close out the match. Lemar scored his second a few minutes later and Kylian Mbappé made the final score 4-0 just before the final whistle.
"Our defeat was justified, because France were far better," Dutch captain Arjen Robben told reporters. "Bulgaria have left us a slim chance of qualifying, but if we fail, it's not just due to this particular match. This has been a very tough campaign for us."
France: Lloris; Sidibé, Koscielny, Umtiti, Kurzawa; Coman, Pogba, Kanté, Lemar; Giroud, Griezmann.
Netherlands: Cillessen; Fosu-Mensah, De Vrij, Hoedt, Blind; Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Strootman; Robben, Janssen, Promes.