The Hard Tackle lists three key players to watch out for ahead of the upcoming match between France and the Netherlands on Friday.
The UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers are underway, with teams trying to reach the quadrennial event next year. France and the Netherlands are two of the pre-tournament favourites before any side even qualifies for the competition. But first, the two teams will begin their qualification campaigns at Stade De France on Friday night.
France bounced back from the horrors of the UEFA Euro 2020 campaign, reaching the FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign. And they remain arguably the strongest team in the world, boasting an eye-watering depth of resources. But Didier Deschamps will be eager to make his mark on the continental competition and triumph at UEFA Euro 2024.
On the other hand, the Netherlands were top-notch under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal. They reached the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals before bowing out on penalties to eventual champions Argentina. Ronald Koeman has returned to the helm and will be eager to lead the team to Germany next year.
The two teams are renowned for embarking on long unbeaten runs when they are at their best. So Friday’s curtain raiser for France and Netherlands is tantalisingly set up. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly change the game’s complexion.
🗣️ "Kylian is world class"
Virgil van Dijk is aware of France's threat and praises Kylian Mbappé ahead of their match tonight 💪 pic.twitter.com/O6fJi7Dnux
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 24, 2023
The list has to begin with arguably the best player in the world. He was also one of the elite performers at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and won the Golden Boot. We are, of course, talking about Kylian Mbappe, who did not deserve to lose the final in Lusail back in December.
The 24-year-old has gone from strength to strength since breaking out at AS Monaco over half a dozen years ago. And Mbappe has become a talismanic figure for Paris Saint-Germain and France since then. Following Hugo Lloris’s retirement, he now comes to the latest international break as Les Bleus’ new captain.
What he brings to the table is well-known. And Mbappe will be eager to kick-start his captaincy reign with a bang. Meanwhile, the Frenchman’s long-term future at the club level is uncertain following PSG’s latest ouster from the UEFA Champions League. And clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool are keen on signing him.
The rumour mill has also thrown up the name of the usual suspects Real Madrid. But Mbappe has done well to put the white noise behind him and concentrate on the matters on the pitch. Expect the 24-year-old to stamp his authority on a France game again.
Memphis Depay's numbers for Oranje with Ronald Koeman as head coach are insane:
12 assists pic.twitter.com/Ro7IkIGpMa
— Raphaël Bejczy (@ScoutEredivisie) March 24, 2023
We now move on to a player who has often saved his best for the international games. This attacker has also revelled under the tutelage of Ronald Koeman to become a talismanic figure for the Netherlands. The star in question is Memphis Depay.
Depay has seen his career at the club level get mired in uncertainty in the last few years. But he has done well to overcome those issues to deliver the goods for the Oranje. And the former Barcelona attacker will be the best hope for the Netherlands to trouble France on Friday.
The 29-year-old will look to put the home side’s defence on notice with his directness. And he will often take up central areas while looking to find pockets of space. In addition, his change of pace can catch the French defender off-guard. All in all, Depay brings a lot to the table and will be under the spotlight for the Netherlands on Friday.
Wijnaldum: "It's not that I am happy about Van Gaal being gone. I am thankful, he took me to the World Cup in 2014 when not many expected it. It's not that I am happy that he's gone because he didn't include me in his last period here. But I have a better connection with Koeman." pic.twitter.com/yS6obgly7W
— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) March 21, 2023
Our list ends with another Dutch star and one who will be desperate to make his mark after two frustrating years. The player in question has been among the leaders for the Oranje in recent memory. We are talking about Georginio Wijnaldum.
The experienced midfielder has endured a fall from grace after being a pivotal figure for Liverpool. Those days of glory and consistency are long gone, with his spell with Paris Saint-Germain leaving a sour taste in the mouth.
The 32-year-old barely made his mark at PSG before joining AS Roma. But then, injury struck the veteran days after moving to Italy, and he missed the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, Wijnaldum has regained his fitness and rediscovering his best form.
An in-form Wijnaldum makes a world of difference for the Netherlands. His tenacity in the middle of the park helps thwart the opposition’s creative moves. In addition, the former Liverpool midfielder also chips in with a few crucial goals. So France will have to be wary of that threat. And Ronald Koeman will bank on the experienced midfielder to deliver the goods on Friday.
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