Positive vibes as France back on track after World Cup heartbreakArchive
PARIS: Three months after a heartbreaking defeat in the World Cup final, France oozed class and confidence as they started their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of the Netherlands on Friday.
Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring with a curled shot from Kylian Mbappe before Dayot Upamecano added a second six minutes later. Mbappe made it 3-0 after being played through by Aurelien Tchouameni in the 21st minute and then wrapped it up with a cross-shot shot two minutes from time.
It was Mbappe’s first game as team captain after Hugo Lloris announced his international retirement and the Paris St Germain forward led by example while keeper Mike Maignan saved a late penalty in a flawless performance.
“There were a lot of positive vibes when they all gathered on Monday and I wanted them to transfer those vibes onto the pitch and that’s what they all did,” coach Didier Deschamps told a news conference.
“It was a great night, in a great atmosphere, with a very good start. Leading the Netherlands 3-0 so quickly is not nothing even though they were missing a lot of players. In the second half we were still threatening even if we were just happy with controlling the game.”
Among those who shone was Randal Kolo Muani, even if the forward did not find the back of the net.
“He’s full of confidence. He moves very well, dribbles very well, and there is a lot of understanding between the offensive players,” said Deschamps.
France lead Group ‘B’ ahead of Greece, who beat Gibraltar 3-0 away , with Giorgos Masouras, Manolis Siopis and captain Anastasios Bakasetas all scoring for the 2004 European champions. Next up for Les Bleus is Ireland at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium while the Dutch will host Gibraltar.
Deschamps’s counterpart Ronald Koeman, back on the national team’s bench after a first stint from 2018-2020, endured a day to forget.
“If you make mistakes like that and lose the ball, they are too good for us. In football you can always make mistakes, but if you look at the first goal the French are waiting for that and then they are so good that they punish it,” he told reporters.
“We lose the ball 20 metres from our own goal. Then you are seven minutes in and you are 2-0 behind. Then they wait and they can counter,” he added, refusing to make any excuses even though he had to make do without the services of five players who were sideline with a viral infection.
“It was about making mistakes in places where you should never do that. Making mistakes is allowed, but not there. I expected more from everyone.”
LUKAKU HITS BELGIUM HAT-TRICK
Knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, Belgium have since seen Roberto Martinez depart and he has been replaced as coach by Domenico Tedesco.
He could not have asked for a better debut as Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick for a 3-0 victory away in Sweden in Group ‘F’.
Lukaku headed in the opener on 35 minutes and then netted with a tap-in, in off Victor Lindeloef, after being set up by Dodi Lukebakio early in the second half.
The 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench for Sweden before Lukaku made it 3-0 with another easy finish.
“To take three points and score three goals in Sweden is never easy for any team,” Tedesco told Belgium’s RTBF.
In the same section, Marcel Sabitzer scored twice as Ralf Rangnick’s Austria beat Azerbaijan 4-1 at home in Linz. Michael Gregoritsch and Christoph Baumgartner also scored for the hosts.
Robert Lewandowski’s Poland got off to a losing start in Group ‘E’ in their first game under new coach Fernando Santos, the man who led Portugal to glory at Euro 2016.
Ladislav Krejci and Tomas Cvancara scored in the first three minutes for the hosts in Prague and Jan Kuchta later got the third. Damian Szymanski pulled one back for Poland as Lewandowski was kept quiet.
Moldova needed a late penalty to draw 1-1 at home to the Faroe Islands in the same group.
In Group ‘G’, Dusan Tadic and Dusan Vlahovic scored the goals as Serbia beat Lithuania 2-0 in Belgrade while Montenegro were 1-0 winners away in Bulgaria, Nikola Krstovic getting the winner.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023