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Friday July 19, 2024

Netherlands and France edge closer to last 16 after stalemate

By Reuters
June 23, 2024
Netherlands Denzel Dumfries in action with Frances Adrien Rabiot in a Group D match against France at Leipzig Stadium, Leipzig, Germany on June 21, 2024.  — Reuters
Netherlands' Denzel Dumfries in action with France's Adrien Rabiot in a Group D match against France at Leipzig Stadium, Leipzig, Germany on June 21, 2024. — Reuters

LEIPZIG: France and the Netherlands played it safe in a 0-0 draw that failed to explode into life in Group D at Euro 2024 on Friday, leaving both sides within sight of a place in the last 16 and eliminating Poland.

With France captain Kylian Mbappe remaining on the bench after suffering a broken nose in their opener, the game sparked only in fits and starts, without ever threatening to turn into a classic.

Both sides squandered chances and had periods of control, but neither could find a breakthrough and eased off the throttle in the second half, seemingly content to claim a point.

The one moment of drama after the break came when Dutchman Xavi Simons had the ball in the net but it was disallowed because Denzel Dumfries, standing offside next to keeper Mike Maignan, was penalised with the decision confirmed by VAR after a lengthy review.

“The position of Dumfries is offside, that's true. But he isn't disturbing the goalkeeper. And when that does not happen, then it's a legal goal in my opinion,” Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman said.

“Did they need five minutes to check it because it's so difficult? I don't understand this."

The result leaves the group open, although with four points in the bag both France and the Netherlands will think they have most likely done enough to reach the last 16.

France next face Poland, who have no points and are the first side to be eliminated after losing 3-1 to Austria earlier on Friday, while the Netherlands meet the Austrians, who have three points, also on Tuesday.

The saga around Mbappe's selection dominated the build-up, with his appearance at training on Thursday wearing a tricolore mask seen as a sure sign he was set for inclusion.

It would have come as some relief therefore to Koeman when the team sheets dropped and Mbappe, who had four goals in his previous two games against the Dutch, was left on the bench.

France manager Didier Deschamps decided not to risk his prized asset but his side, who have scored one goal in their opening two games, clearly missed their captain. "We did a lot of things, but unfortunately we didn't manage to find the back of the net," Deschamps said. "So, again, the only regret I have, regarding the number of chances we saw, is the fact that we didn't win," he added.

The first half was at times frenetic, with the Dutch going close within the first minute as Jeremie Frimpong's effort was tipped around the post by Maignan before Antoine Griezmann had an early shot palmed over at the other end.

France should have taken the lead minutes later when Adrien Rabiot was played through on goal but inexplicably chose to pass to Griezmann, who was so stunned by his generosity that he miscontrolled, stumbled and lost possession.

With Mbappe out of the picture, Griezmann slotted into the role as France's main man, firing another chance wide and heading straight at keeper Bart Verbruggen from a Rabiot cross.

By contrast, the Netherlands seemed to lack a real threat, with most of their attacks petering out with all their forwards guilty of failing to find a telling pass when the penalty area honed into view.

As the second half progressed, France increased the tempo with Marcus Thuram flashing a shot wide on the hour, Aurelien Tchouameni heading over and an off-balance Griezmann again thwarted by Verbruggen from close range.