Netherlands vs France: Three key players to watch out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can significantly influence the pivotal clash between the Netherlands and France.

Ronald Koeman has a massive task to right the wrongs with this immensely talented Netherlands side. He will consider a passage into next summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 as a significant sign of improvement. If they fail to qualify, there must be an inquest into the problems, which a team of this calibre should not have.

Their heavy defeat to France away from home showed something was amiss with this squad, although they have recovered well ever since. The Netherlands sit level on points with Greece in Group B and have a game in hand. For now, they are the favourites to finish second when the qualification round ends. But they still have plenty to prove regarding their character.

Koeman continues to miss plenty of crucial stars ahead of their pivotal game against France. The former Barcelona boss will hope to see most of those absentees return in time for next summer. But even without them, he has a strong enough squad to compete at the highest level.

Sticking to squad depth, Didier Deschamps has a rich enough squad worthy of dominating world football, let alone Europe. Their journey during the Qatar World Cup showed France can be a force to reckon with, and the quality they have at their disposal seems unique compared to most countries.

They have already stamped their authority on this qualification group with a 100% record in these fixtures. Ahead of France’s trip to the Netherlands, Deschamps’s men have won all of their five games, and the manager will hope to maintain their flawless run.

More so, the manager has the players to get a result, and our preview of the game indeed points towards a France win. Yet, the Netherlands have players to stop their run and may pause their passage into the finals for another matchday or two.

Here, ahead of the Netherlands-France clash, we look at the three players who could have a big say in proceedings on the pitch. For France, their attacking duo Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann will have significant roles to play in unlocking that tight Dutch defence. In contrast, key Oranje man Virgil van Dijk will have his task cut out for stopping that duo from creating havoc.

Antoine Griezmann

A younger Griezmann was an explosive star, full of goals and always in the mood to trouble defences. With age and under the proper tutelage, the Atletico Madrid star has become a mature presence for Didier Deschamps in this France side and remains one of his trusted lieutenants.

For a player of Griezmann’s quality, it is pretty baffling to know that he has neither won a Champions League nor a league title during his otherwise solid career. A World Cup with France remains his most significant achievement, and hardly anything in world football beats it.

Yet, while there are doubts about Griezmann winning major honours in club football, he can surely add to his international tally by winning the Euros. France came close in 2016 but not in Euro 2020 (2021). He has the calibre to make a significant mark in massive games such as the upcoming one against the Netherlands.

The Dutch defence is a tight unit and will have the experience of players like Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake and Stefan de Vrij. Hence, it is a big task for Griezmann & Co. to find openings and ways to unlock this otherwise tight-looking backline to help France take a giant step towards qualifying for Euro 2024.

Virgil van Dijk

While Griezmann gets to show his international accolades, Virgil van Dijk has plenty to offer at the club level. Already considered a legend by those supporting Liverpool, the defender still has plenty to prove on the international stage.

He must play a key role in helping the Oranje qualify for the Euro 2024 finals, which still hangs in the balance. The big problem for this Dutch side is making their mark against bigger teams, something their past teams used to do with ease.

Yet, there is a big test of character in wait for van Dijk & Co. to prove their mettle as world-class players. The Liverpool star, in particular, is one of the senior-most members of Koeman’s side and must take plenty of responsibility towards getting results and performances.

So far, the Liverpool star has seemed fit enough and has returned to his best this season. Hence, he will have no excuses for a sub-par performance against France, especially if their attackers easily break the Dutch defence. Hence, van Dijk will have a significant role to play in this crucial clash with France on Friday night.

Kylian Mbappe

Didier Deschamps has constantly looked at Mbappe for solutions in the past and present, with his superstar forward consistently delivering the goods. The 24-year-old France skipper has had a fantastic start to his club campaign, scoring eight goals in all competitions and remains a massive figure for Les Bleus.

With four goals in this qualifying campaign, including two against the Netherlands in the reverse fixture, Mbappe comes into this clash in supreme form. For Deschamps, having the PSG star fit and firing is very important for France to wrap up Group B as soon as possible.

While some argue that the big European teams always get weaker sides to compete with, Mbappe remains one of those players who always performs against the bigger sides. While he has little to prove on the international stage, this clash against the Netherlands challenges the 24-year-old.

Taking on the likes of van Dijk and other Dutch defenders will be a task that Mbappe, who continues to be linked with top clubs like Liverpool and Real Madrid at the club level, would relish. For France to get a result in the Netherlands, the 24-year-old needs to be at his best and firing in the goals.

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