Netherlands welcome France in group of death

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.

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. 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.

Memphis Depay, Netherlands

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.

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. As Mbappe’s lightning burst of pace was critical to France picking the Austrian lock, his expected absence robs Les Bleus of their X-factor for Friday’s tie of the titans, where defences could come out on top.

The Netherlands may have been in free-scoring mode for most of the past year, but Deschamps’s defence are one of the toughest nuts to crack right now, and this blockbuster may very well end without the net bulging once.



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