No World Cup hangover as France prepare for Ireland with ruthless Dutch destruction
France 4, Netherlands 0
This was more of a rollover than a hangover – the French side who woke from a Doha slumber to deliver a World Cup final for the ages picking up where they left off.
With Monday in mind, the short-term Irish focus was always going to be on the performance of Didier Deschamps’ charges and three goals inside the first quarter to remove any tension from proceedings was a powerful show of strength. A stunning solo effort from Kylian Mbappe at the death delivered an ominous ending.
Perhaps from a longer-term perspective, some encouragement could be taken from the abject nature of the Netherlands’ performance under returning manager Ronald Koeman, although a virus running through the camp offers a degree of mitigation. Memphis Depay’s poor stoppage-time penalty-kick capped their misery.
With Nations League commitments meaning the Dutch take a hiatus from Euros action until September once Monday’s anticipated drubbing of Gibraltar is out of the way, then the Irish mission has to be getting early points on the board that leaves Koeman’s troops with a bit of stress ahead of their visit to Dublin in that window.
That’s for later down the line, though. For now, Stephen Kenny and his staff will have to figure out what this fixture says about a French side that showed no ill-effects from a draining season.
The Irish manager was happy with the long build-up to the match from his perspective because of the expectation that France would have to recover from a high-octane affair. A position of comfort that allowed Deschamps to rest the legs of key men has probably dented enthusiasm levels under that heading.
He was able to wait until the 66th minute for a first switch because his team is adept at conserving energy, a key takeaway for this fixture which may prove relevant for Ireland.
This is not a French team obsessed with controlling possession. Instead, the decision to drop Olivier Giroud and introduce Randal Kolo Muani, a central figure off the bench in the World Cup final drama, gave Deschamps a mobile front three happy to wait and pounce on errors.
Kolo Muani rotated with Mbappe, who took up his usual station on the left of attack, with Kingsley Coman selected on the right. Similar to Qatar, Antoine Griezmann functioned as the link player in behind, his intelligent pressing contributing to the early breakthrough.
Dutch mistakes were punished with a rapid break allowing Mbappe to lay the ball on a plate for Griezmann, the combination delivering the French media a perfect storyline after the suggestion that the Atletico Madrid player was miffed to lose out on the captaincy to the PSG superstar.
While the second goal was the consequence of a dead ball and dreadful goalkeeping from Jasper Cillessen that allowed Dayot Upamecano a close-range present, it was movement from Kolo-Muani that distracted the Dutch rearguard and allowed Mbappe in behind to slot the third.
Kenny has said that watching Denmark play France in the World Cup was perfect homework and that’s because they operate in a similar system to Ireland.
The Dutch, by contrast, have switched from Louis van Gaal’s back three to a back four under Koeman. Irish management may believe they are better equipped to cover space.
France were efficient enough off the ball in terms of adopting a set-up that challenged the guests to play through them, yet there were a few instances of tardy defending.
They do leave gaps behind their full-backs which may influence Irish personnel choices. Kenny has stressed the need for speed.
What this exercise demonstrated, though, is that Ireland need to hit the ceiling of their performance and hope that France mentally drop down a level.