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France vs Netherlands

LIVE Commentary: France vs the Netherlands: 5th March 2014

21:52 GMT: FT: France 2-0 the Netherlands. A second half which brought little in the way of good football from either side but the match was won in the first half with rampant performances from Matuidi, Valbuena and a rejuvenated Benzema who is coming into form just at the right to for Les Bleus after a torrid 2013/2014 international campaign previously. There was little defending to be done, but when Mangala and Varane were called upon they duly responded. The former was particularly impressive in thwarting all of van Persie’s attempts to get any dangerous effort on target. Lots to smile about for Deschamps and the French public. Until next time, Au Revoir! 

21:50 GMT: 2 minutes of additional time. The Netherlands have a free kick but van Persie is passed to in an offside position. FT imminent. 

21:49 GMT: Eliaquim Mangala and Blaise Matuidi have been chosen as joint Man of the Match’s by myself today. I cannot separate the pair. 

21:46 GMT: Sagna replaces Debuchy who recovered from some early wobbles to put in a robust shift in the right back position. France have shown quality tonight but this Netherlands side is a shadow of what it was four years ago in South Africa. 

21:43 GMT: Timely intervention from Mangala to deny van Persie in the 6 yard area as we enter the last 5 minutes of this encounter. The Oranje heading for their first international defeat since August 2012. 

21:39 GMT: France attack has really lost focus since Mathieu Valbuena was substituted. Ribery has just had a weak shot by his standards easily saved. Game has fizzled out.

Benzema off, Giroud on. Pogba off, Moussa Sissoko on. 

21:36 GMT: Yohan Cabaye has been yellow carded for a tactical foul as France were running back to deter a Dutch counter attack. 

21:35 GMT: Interesting to see how hard Lucas Digne is working down this left hand flank as we enter the last 15 minutes of this match. Has chased down to hopeful balls through to him all the way to the Dutch goalkeeper and then sprinted back to defend the consequent goal kick. Really committed young man. 

21:33 GMT: Game has broken up somewhat with these constant substitutions but one wouldn’t expect anything different in the second half of an international friendly 100 days or so before a World Cup. The Netherlands have really failed to impose a lasting threat on the French goalmouth all evening, apart from hopeful attempts by a generally disinterested van Persie. 

21:30 GMT: Loic Remy has gone down in considerable pain after being stamped on by Martins Indi. Sneijder, who I hadn’t actually noticed playing is replaced by Klaassen. Boetius is replaced by Deplay in a double change. 

21:28 GMT: Verdict on Griezmann’s debut is as follows. Was a bit too polite to the other French attackers today in terms of allowing them to take balls off him during buildup or allowing them to take-up favourable attacking positions in the box that he should have arguably been manning. On tonight’s performance, I don’t think Deschamps can justify taking him to the World Cup, but maybe he is indeed better than Dimitri Payet and Loic Remy in the right wing position. 

21:25 GMT: The Netherlands have failed to exploit the French full backs adequately tonight. Debuchy and Evra love to bomb forward but that always leaves them vulnerable defensively. Debuchy and Evra were both skinned in the first half but Lucas Digne has looked solid since coming on. Very impressed by the youngster. Antoine Griezmann replaced by Loic Remy. 

21:21 GMT: Substitution for France as Mathieu Valbuena is replaced by Franck Ribery. 

21:18 GMT: Raphael Varane sees his header go wide and over of the left post directly from a corner. French had had a sustained period of possession beforehand. Game is settling down now tin France happy to play it on the deck. 

21:15 GMT: Antoine Griezmann has a shot blocked after a neat one-two with Valbuena. Generally speaking there is more Dutch gusto about this second half. 

21:13 GMT: Now it is Eliaquim Mangala’s turn to thwart Robin van Persie as his sliding block is enough to avert the danger and concede a corner. 

21:10 GMT: Robin van Persie gets his head on a van der Wiel cross but Varane stands firm. Rekik on, Blind off for the Netherlands as they make their 2nd change of the night. 

21:07 GMT: Lucas Digne has made a much more assured start Les Bleus life than Antoine Griezmann did in the first half and it is his cross that creates the first half chance of the half. Paul Pogba contests with the keeper in the subsequent aerial battle but the cross was too close to the Dutch goal to really trouble Cilessen. 

21:05 GMT: The second half is underway and Paul Pogba has a run which ends up amounting to nothing down the right hand side. France very much looking to pick up this second half where they left off.

21:02 GMT: Lucas Digne is walking out of the tunnel now, both sides are ready to come back out for this second half. 

20:54 GMT: According to colleague Julien Laurens, Lucas Digne will be coming on to make his France debut at the start of this second half. Understood to be a straight swap for Patrice Evra who had been requested to only play 45 minutes today anyway. 

20:50 GMT: HT: France 2-0 the Netherlands. Unbelievable what one memorable night at the Stade de France whereby France beat Ukraine 3-0 has done to the teams morale. Deschamps has allowed them to express themselves in a manner which I have not seen in many, many years. Funnily enough, France are probably playing better collectively without Ribery on the pitch who they tend to rely too much on when he is playing. That dependancy on one player does not exist tonight and France are benefiting from that somewhat. We would be foolish to rule out the Netherlands come back into this one but the substitution of Strootman, who had been pulling the Dutch midfield strings has impacted their ability to push forward. Come back in under 10 minutes as I will take you through the second half! 

20:48 GMT: France should have had a third! A wonderful free kick whipped in with pace by Valbuena see Griezmann hit the bar with a delicate touch and Mangala’s free header at an empty net comes off the top of his head an eventually the ball ends up to far behind him to threaten the Dutch. 

20:45 GMT: In all that madness, we have seen two absolutely amazing goals scored already this evening but I must point out that van der Wiel had a very good chance down the right flank immediately after France’s second goal but he lost concentration at the last minute and the ball went wide. 

20:42 GMT: GOAL: France 2-0 the Netherlands (Matuidi)! WOW. This is a new breed of France and it is scary. A ruthless counter attack is expertly finished off by Matuidi who is forced to improvise to fire home Valbuena’s cross. Harsh on Griezmann who would have had the net at his mercy if Matuidi would have left it but…

20:39 GMT: Meanwhile, I would like to point out that Australia are currently beating Ecuador 3-0 in a friendly match and it is not even half time. Why is this important I hear you ask? Ecuador are supposed to be France’s second toughest World Cup group stage opponents. France beat Australia in a recent friendly 6-0… I’ll let you work it out…

Substitution: Strootman OFF Schaars ON.

20:38 GMT: The first yellow if the evening goes to Gregory van der Wiel who crunches the left leg of Antoine Griezmann. Freekick in a dangerous position here…

20:36 GMT: France have not totally dominated this encounter but have had the more dangerous opportunities in front of goal and Benzema, as I pointed out earlier, is really hungry this evening. He is just flagged offside for the 3rd time this evening as I am writing this but at least he is actually making the effort to make the runs! 

20:33 GMT: GOAL: France 1-0 the Netherlands (Benzema)! What a wonderful goal from Karim Benzema. How 3 months can make a difference! A poor ball is played from the French midfield, it is high and swirling but Benzema connects with it just outside of the area on the right hand side of the penalty area, first time, half volley, smashes it home. 

20:31 GMT: Robin van Persie forces a smart save from French captain Lloris after he is left unmarked by the far post from a Dutch corner. The resulting punch is eventually cleared away by a French defender. That was the Netherlands’ first real chance of the match that.

20:28 GMT: France now have a free kick in a dangerous position and Yohan Cabaye looks like he fancies himself. Pogba was hacked down by the Feyenoord defender, rightly penalised for doing so. The free kick goes straight into the wall from Benzema and the Netherlands end up getting a goal kick out of that series of events. 

20:25 GMT: What is refreshing is to see just how hungry Karim Benzema is in this French shirt tonight. His demeanour on international duty is usually negative but he’s up for it this evening. Paul Pogba also starting to come into the game now with a series of lovely dribbles and pinpoint passes. Debuchy on the other hand looks disorientated again when he loses sight of the ball in his own penalty area but danger is averted. 

20:22 GMT: While the Netherlands are looking good in the midfield when they have the ball, mainly due to the mastery of Strootman, defensively they look very suspect. Am questioning van Gaal’s decision to deploy such a high defensive line when the likes of Vlaar clearly lack the pace to chase after Benzema when Pogba’s numerous balls over the top are played. 

20:21 GMTKarim Benzema has just had a neat volley goal disallowed for offside and I’m dubious. The English linesman has got that one wrong in my eyes.

20:20 GMT: As I said would happen, Griezmann and Valbuena have switched wings (left, right) and France break on the counter with a weighted through ball to Benzema who finds Valbuena, Griezmann knock back but Benzema’s header is blocked. 

20:17 GMT: The Netherlands are dominating the encounter thus far in terms of possession. Pogba and Cabaye have been quiet in the midfield but not duracell bunny Blaise Matuidi, who’s omnipresence is ever existent in the French and PSG shirts. 

20:11 GMT: Dutch goalkeeper Cillessen looking fairly suspect between the sticks for the away side as a poor clearance eventually allows Debuchy to swing a ball in but the delivery is poor and behind Karim Benzema. 

20:08 GMT: Antoine Griezmann’s first evident contribution is disappointing. The Netherlands had built well down the left hand side but were left open to a French counter attack but Griezmann’s touch let them down. Boëtius has been causing Mathieu Debuchy serious problems down his respective flank thus far. Sagna looks on…

20:06 GMT: It turns out that Mathieu Valbuena has started primarily down this left hand side and Antoine Griezmann is playing down the right for now. Expect them to switch at some point. Valbuena is certainly historically stronger down the right. 

20:04 GMT: Some hustle and bustle from down this right hand side by a careering Karim Benzema nearly fashions a chance for France but Mathieu Debuchy’s eventual cross is headed clear and Evra’s follow up is not worth mentioning. 

20:03 GMT: A lively start to tonight’s match with the Dutch flying in with a series of illegal tackles on both Valbuena and Evra. The former was fouled by van der Wiel. Maybe the PSG man still thought he was partaking in Le Classique for last weekend there! 

20:01 GMT: We are underway! I stand corrected regarding Arjen Robben by the way. The player is actually on the Netherlands’ bench tonight. 

19:58 GMT: Watching the players sing the national anthems can always spring up some amusement and Paul Pogba has provided us with that. Clearly showing he has no idea what the lyrics were to La Marseillaise and just hums and hopes for the best. Karim Benzema, as usual, refuses to sing the national anthem. 

19:54 GMT: Teams are out, the national anthems will be underway shortly. All eyes on Antoine Griezmann who has admitted to getting emotional about even being selected for the squad for the very first time. Let’s see what he will be like when La Marseillaise rings around the stadium. Our referee is incidentally an Englishman this evening in the form of Martin Atkinson. 

19:52 GMT: Louis van Gaal will of course not be the Netherlands coach for much longer. He has announced that he will be stepping down from his position after the World Cup. Anzhi manager Guus Hiddink will be replacing him. 

19:50 GMT: The teams are expected to be out any minute now as the music gets more dramatic. The last football match here in the Stade de France was of course that 3-0 victory over Ukraine in a euphoric night which dramatically secured France their World Cup place. 

19:44 GMT: The Stade de France is slowly filling up as the first cries of Allez les Bleus can be heard around the ground. French manager Didier Deschamps made certain to reiterate it the pre-match press conferences that this game is sold out. Very impressive for an 80,000 seater stadium in the middle of the week for an international friendly. Is this a sign that the French public is starting to get back on side with French football again?

19:41 GMT: Laurent Koscielny misses the match tonight due to a minor knee strain that he suffered yesterday in training. We are hearing that it is merely a precautionary measure, leaving him out tonight.

19:31 GMT: So, with less than half an hour to go until we are up and running, who is bold enough to make a prediction for this encounter? 

19:26 GMT: A little statistic for you. The Mangala-Varane partnership is incredibly the 9th centre back pairing that Didier Deschamps has deployed as French boss. Arguably, the strongest pairing has proved to be Koscielny-Varane but if there was ever a time to try partnerships out, tonight is the perfect opportunity to do so. For those who are wondering why Franck Ribery does not start this evening it is mainly due to the fact that he has only just recovered from a buttock injury. 

19:20 GMT: So Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann is given his debut in the France shirt. The France XI is the team that was training yesterday as the 1st team so to speak when they finished with an eleven a side match but there is one change. Laurent Koscielny has been replaced by Eliaquim Mangala instead. For Holland, a surprising inclusion for Robin van Persie who has been unwell over the past few days and the total exclusion of Arjen Robben from both the bench and the starting XI. Certainly fair to say that van Gaal is being slightly more experimental with his team than Deschamps has in terms of selection. 

France XI vs the Netherlands: (4-3-3): Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Mangala, Varane, Pogba, Matuidi, Cabaye, Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann

The Netherlands XI vs France: Cillessen, van der Wiel, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind, Clasie, Sneijder, Strootman, Promes, Van Persie, Boëtius

19:15 GMT: Hello and welcome to this evening’s Get French Football News coverage of France’s last international friendly both their World Cup warmup begins as they get ready to face the Netherlands kicking off at the Stade de France at 20:00 GMT this evening. The team news next…

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