AMSTERDAM ― Kylian Mbappe fired France into next year’s European Championships today, scoring twice as his side kept their unbeaten qualifying record with a 2-1 win over a depleted Netherlands in Amsterdam.
The three points meant Didier Deschamps’ men qualify for Euro 2024 with two games to spare, while 1988 champions Netherlands have to battle it out with Greece for second place in Group B.
“We’ve got qualification in the bag. We’re very happy,” said French midfielder Adrien Raboit.
There had been some concerns over Mbappe’s form coming into the match, as he recovers from an ankle injury, but the Paris Saint-Germain star has a great record against the Oranje and took just seven minutes to strike.
A slick move down the right sliced opened the Dutch defence and Mbappe volleyed crisply in from a Jonathan Clauss cross to give Les Bleus the lead.
France thumped their hosts 4-0 in the reverse fixture in March, with the Dutch missing several key players after a virus swept through the squad.
The Dutch were again crippled by absences, with no fewer than 12 potential squad members injured or ill.
The absence of Atletico Madrid striker Memphis Depay and Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo posed a particular headache for manager Ronald Koeman, who said before the match he had “never been in such a situation” with so many missing.
It was halfway through the first period before the Dutch gave their fans in Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena anything to cheer, Joey Veerman smashing a ball over the bar when it looked easier to score.
Koeman was also missing Barcelona playmaker Frenkie de Jong and Bayern Munich’s centre back Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch appeared short of ideas and fragile in defence, especially on the right.
A long-range shot on the stroke of half-time by Quilindschy Hartman nearly slipped through the gloves of French goalkeeper Mike Maignan but France went into the break deservedly ahead.
‘Top country with top players’
Mbappe doubled the French advantage on 53 minutes with a sumptuous curled strike into the top corner that gave Bart Verbruggen no chance.
It was the PSG striker’s 42nd international goal, overtaking French legend Michel Platini and putting him fourth in the all-time list.
The hosts thought they were back in the game a few minutes later but substitute Donyell Malen’s effort was ruled offside.
The Oranje faithful were given some hope when Hartman squeezed a shot past Maignan at the near post on 83 minutes.
The bar denied Mbappe a hat-trick as France closed out the match to take all three points.
“When he’s like that, France has a much better chance of winning,” said Deschamps of his star striker.
France host Scotland in Lille on October 17 before concluding their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign next month at home to Gibraltar and then away to Greece.
The Dutch play away against Greece on October 16, in what looks like a must-win game.
“If we want to go to the European Championships, we have to win there,” said Dutch captain Virgil Van Dijk.
Referring to Friday’s match, van Dijk said: “We fought and played good football in parts. But you’re playing tonight against a top country with top players.
“If you are at all sloppy, France will take advantage.”
The Dutch campaign then wraps up with a home match against Ireland and then a final fixture against minnows Gibraltar. ― AFP