Classy France beat the Netherlands
By D. Crossan
Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi scored outstanding goals as France beat the Netherlands 2-0 in a friendly at the Stade de France.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
France 2-0 Netherlands
Both goals against the 2010 World Cup finalists were scored in the final 15 minutes of the first half as Didier Deschamps’ side made the most of an outstanding spell which sucked the life from the Dutch. The France coach could be well pleased with the performances of key personnel such as Benzema and Matuidi and, ahead of naming his World Cup party on May 13, the former OM boss handed debuts to Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Digne, both of whom looked at home on the international stage.
After a cagey opening during which the visitors exerted some control, the home side sprung into life around the 20-minute mark with Benzema to the fore. The Real Madrid forward had a header cleared off the line by Ron Vlaar, the chance created by a volleyed cross by Les Bleus debutant Griezmann. The Real Sociedad forward was keen to show up well and seize his chance to stake a claim for a World Cup place.
Benzema to the fore
A minute later Benzema crashed the ball through the legs of Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen but the goal was disallowed for offside. Paul Pogba then sent a perfect lofted pass over the defence into Benzema’s path only for the forward to finish in tame fashion.
Just before the half-hour France captain Hugo Lloris beat away a fierce volley from his Dutch counterpart Robin Van Persie. It was Louis Van Gaal’s side’s first chance of the night as the young defenders Eliaquim Mangala and Raphaël Varane - the ninth central-defensive pairing to start under Deschamps - looked comfortable.
With 32 minutes on the clock, Benzema got his reward for a lively first-half display when he latched on to a Matuidi ball over the top and lashed home a fabulous first-time right-footed volley that flew past Cillessen. Benzema’s 19th international goal in 65 games for his country was his second in as many games, the 26-year-old having also netted in the incredible World Cup play-offs second leg against Ukraine at the Stade de France last November.
Life got even better for the hosts in the 41st minute when Matuidi, fresh from signing his new Paris Saint-Germain contract, applied the finishing touch to a fine team move for his first France goal, conjuring up an incredible volley with his weaker right foot, reacting brilliantly as Valbuena’s cross from the right fell a touch behind him. Benzema had again been prominent in the build-up, sliding a fine pass out to Olympique de Marseille star Valbuena.
At the other end Matuidi’s club colleague Gregory Van der Wiel - earlier booked for a heavy challenge on Griezmann - dragged a left-footed effort wide of goal. On the stroke of half-time Mangala could have marked his second France cap with a goal, heading a Benzema cross over after a cleverly worked free-kick as Deschamps’ men continued to dominate.
Digne replaced Patrice Evra at half-time to make his international debut and the PSG left-back saw his fellow 20-year-old Varane head narrowly off target on the hour. Franck Ribéry returned from a strained buttock as a second-half sub on a positive night for the home side and determined defending from Mangala helped keep the Dutch at bay as skipper Lloris recorded a clean sheet.