There were no signs of a post-World Cup hangover for France’s first game of the year, as a revamped and rejuvenated squad dismantled a dismayed Dutch side with a devastating counter-attacking showing. After a fitting prelude – four recent retirees, 454 caps between them, were honoured – the new generation showed that they were more than capable of picking up where there predecessors left off.
France struck first, with an assister-goalscorer combination which couldn’t have been more fitting after the last week of captaincy-related drama. After winning the ball back in midfield, France flooded forward – Kylian Mbappé was found out wide, and served up his vice-captain Antoine Griezmann in the middle for a slotted finish.
It didn’t take long for Les Bleus to double their lead, as the Dutch were unable to clear Griezmann’s free-kick from wide five minutes later, and Upamecano bundled it over for his team’s second. France’s devastating counters continued – Mbappé marking his first outing as captain with a goal after Kolo Muani let Tchouaméni’s through ball run straight through to the PSG man, who beat Cillessen one on one to keep the rout going.
The second half saw more game management from Les Bleus – Ronald Koeman’s men were somewhat more incisive going forward, but the newly-formed centre-back pairing of Konaté and Upamecano – who Marcel Desailly tipped for greatness earlier – showed no signs of breaking. With minutes to go, after an expertly maanged second half, Mbappé added the fourth with a fantastic solo effort, outdoing the entire defence with a pair of feints and a rifled finish into the bottom corner – his 38th goal for France, already. The one blemish will have been a late penalty conceded by Upamecano – but Maignan stepped up to parry Memphis Depay’s effort, rouding off a complete performance from Les Bleus across the park.
Generation Mbappé is off to a flier.
France player ratings
Mike Maignan, 8
Jules Koundé, 6
Ibrahima Konaté, 7
Dayot Upamecano, 8 – Arguably the most in-form defender in the world right now. Imposing in all of his challenges and at ease on the ball, the Bayern Munich man continued the fantastic form he has showed since the World Cup, the one blot on his copybook being a penalty given away late on – which his goalkeeper parried away anyway.
Théo Hernandez, 6
Antoine Griezmann, 8 – A complete midfield performance from the newly-named vice-captain, who shrugged off his initial disappointment at missing out on the armband by showing once again why he was repositioned by Deschamps. Was the catalyst for countless counters in recovering the ball and finding his attacking partners in the blink of an eye – his first goal being the best example. Replaced by Eduardo Camavinga.
Aurélien Tchouaméni, 7
Adrien Rabiot, 6
Kingsley Coman, 6 – Made less of an impact than his fellow forwards, but was still too much for the Dutch defence to handle – some sensational sprints down the wing, the last of which nearly converted on the volley by Kolo Muani. Replaced just after the hour mark by Moussa Diaby.
Randal Kolo Muani, 7 – He may not have scored, but the former Nantes man has showed that he is more than up to the task of being the number nine in Mbappé’s beloved “pivot gang” in his altruistic style of play. Involved in virtually every attack, notably with some great vision on letting the ball run past him to put the PSG man clean through to score Les Bleus’ third of the game. Replaced by Olivier Giroud.
Kylian Mbappé, 8 – Led by example for his first outing as captain, getting stuck in with defensive duties and scoring a goal at the end of each half – the first, a clinical one-on-one finish, the second a sensational piece of footwork with a double feint before a bottom corner finish from the edge of the box.
GFFN | Raphaël Jucobin