The Netherlands defeated France 2-0 in their third match in League A of UEFA's Nations League on Friday night. The victory keeps Dutch hopes of proceeding to the June finals alive.
Dressed in their traditional full-orange kit, the hosts dominated much of the first half in Rotterdam, showing a good deal of patience and concentration, always wary of a rapid French counter-attack.
For their part, the World Champions knew they only needed a draw to reach the semi-finals and didn’t play for more. France even allowed the Dutch as much as 67 percent ball possession before the break. The two sides created an equal number of chances, but the Netherlands managed to convert one of them into a goal. One minute before the half-time whistle, Georginio Wijnaldum reacted quickly to a rebound from French goalkeeper Hugo Lorris following a Ryan Babel effort from close range to score the opener.
The second period followed much the same pattern, but as the Netherlands created more chances, the game became more open, and more exciting as a result. However, it took well into extra time for the Dutch to double their lead. Moussa Sissoko conceded a spotkick for tripping Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay showed his superb technique by tricking LLoris with a Panenka penalty, chipping the ball through the middle.
“We did well,” Wijnaldum commented after the match with some measure of understatement. “The way we played was exceptionally good; we gave little away, we had the upper hand, so we deserved to win. Let’s enjoy this victory, particularly this one against the French.”
It was a "wonderful team effort before a great crowd,” said the second goal scorer, Memphis Depay. “We’re on the right track, we played in a very mature way, taking responsibility, but we still need to improve.”
Ronald Koeman's men now face Germany in their final Nations League group match this coming Monday and only need a draw to qualify for the Nations League Final Four. Germany were relegated from League A as a result of Friday's win.
Netherlands: Cillessen, Blind, Van Dijk, De Ligt, Dumfries, Wijnaldum, De Jong, De Roon, Bergwijn, Memphis, Babel
France: Lloris, Digne, Kimpembe, Varane, Pavard, Nzonzi, Kanté, Matuidi, Griezmann, Mbappé, Giroud