Hosts of the 2016 European Championship finals travel to Amsterdam for a high-profile friendly match against the Netherlands, who begin their 2018 World Cup preparations following the disappointing campaign in the qualifiers for the continental championship.
One of the most disappointing sides during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with only four wins in ten games and 14 conceded goals, the Netherlands never looked confident enough and could not get their game together at a single point during the qualification process. For the first time in the last 32 year the Oranje will not be a part of the European Championship finals and Danny Blind is now setting sights on the preparations for the 2018 World Cup. The Netherlands managed to recover from the unsuccessful Euro spell with a 3-2 friendly win over Wales in November, but they are still long way from being their former selves. The Oranje managed to narrowly outdo Wales thanks to a late winner by Arjen Robben, but Blind’s men will nevertheless head into the match with the Euro 2016 hosts feeling confident and eager to prove that the poor spell is behind them. The Dutch have a positive record against the French as they lost only one of their last four matches and they will most certainly hope to extend that record. One to keep an eye on in the home side is definitely Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has been in pretty good form of late.
Patrick van Aanholt, Davy Proper and Ibrahim Affelay were called-up to replace late withdrawals Erik Pieters, Daryl Janmaat, Ron Vlaar and Jurgen Locadia.
Robin van Persie was ignored for the second time since the end of the Euro 2016 qualifiers as the experienced striker is struggling with form at Fenerbahce.
Didier Deschamps has managed to forge a tightly-organized unit with huge attacking potential and France has been enjoying a fantastic spell of late. Having won five of their last six matches, Deschamps’ men suffered their only defeat to England, just after the Paris attacks last year. Euro 2016 hosts look strong and compact in all departments and have a very well balanced squad. Regardless of all the controversy surrounding Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, France have maintained the high level of self-confidence and Les Bleus begin the finals preparations for the summer showpiece tournament in high spirits. Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann will lead the front line for the French team, as these two are in top form at the moment. Arsenal striker scored three goals in his last two appearances for his country, while Atletico Madrid star has been in sensational form with 17 La Liga goals thus far. Didier Deschamps will be pleased to see almost all of his first-team choices in fine competitive form. Paul Pogba will once again take the central midfield role, while Manchester United and Bayern Munich starlets Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman should fill in the flanks. Leicester midfielder N’Golo Kante was awarded for his sublime form in the Premier League with his first ever France call-up and he could be in line for a starting berth.
Eliaquim Mangala and Mathie Valbuena are both injured, while Karim Benzema is suspended.
Alexandre Lacazzette, Hatem Ben Arfa and Kevin Gameiro are three surprising omissions, while Dimitri Payet returns to the fold following his lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Key Factors to Consider
- Netherlands failed to qualify for a Euro for the first time since 1984
- The Dutch lost their last three home games in all competitions
- France won only once in four matches against the Netherlands
- Deschamps’ men lost one and won five of their last six fixtures
- Netherlands failed to keep a clean sheet in every one of their last 5 matches
The Netherlands are keen to record a positive score over the Euro 2016 hosts and prove that they belong among the elite. However, in-form French are the force to be reckoned with and Deschamps’ men must be considered one of the firm favourites to lift the European trophy this summer.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Bookmaker: William Hill