Rotterdam, Nov 17 (IANS) The Netherlands defeated France 2-0 to stay in the battle for berths in the final stage of the UEFA Nations League.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Dutch were expected to fare badly against the other two teams in League A Group 1, France and Germany, reports Efe.
But with Friday’s outcome, the Germans find themselves relegated and Les Bleus see their path to the Nations final stage complicated.
While the French lead the group with 7 points from four matches, followed by the Netherlands with 6 and Germany with 1, the Dutch have a game in hand and can claim the ticket to the final if they beat Die Mannschaft next Monday.
France, a mere shadow of the team that won the World Cup in July, succumbed in Rotterdam to a Dutch squad that are much improved under new coach Ronald Koeman.
The French began the match playing the style that made them world champions: solid defending with an eye toward scoring on set pieces and the counter-attack.
The hosts, however, were going for goal from the opening whistle, led by the Ajax attacking pair of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt.
Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum threatened the French goal in the early going before Les Bleus won back possession, nearly taking the lead on a shot by Benjamin Pavard that went just over the cross-bar.
In the final minute of first-half regulation, a poor clearance by French defender Steven Nzonzi set up a chance from point-blank range for Ryan Babel. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made the initial stop, but was helpless to stop Wijnaldum from knocking in the rebound to put the Dutch up 1-0.
Conceding just before the break was a psychological blow to France and things got worse after the re-start, with the inspired hosts flying forward in pursuit of more goals and only the sure reflexes of Lloris prevented a rout.
The second goal came in the dying moments of stoppage time, as Depay converted a penalty after France’s Moussa Sissoko was called for a foul in the area.