Thursday, December 2, 2021

France 1-4 Holland

Andy Greeves in Editorial, European Championships 14 Jun 2008


France 1-4 Holland

Holland secured their place in the quarter finals of Euro 2008, with a crushing 4-1 victory over France on Friday evening.

Marco Van Basten’s side followed up their superb win over Italy on Monday, overpowering and outfighting Raymond Domenech’s aging French team. The fluidity of Holland’s play so far in Euro 2008, combined with the quality of their goals, surely makes them one of the favourites to land the Henri Delaunay trophy. France meanwhile know that even victory in their final make or break Group C game with Italy on Tuesday might not be enough to keep them in the competition. At least one of the two World Cup 2006 finalists will definitely be going home next week, neither having managed to overcome Holland or Romania in the so-called ‘Group of Death’.

The Dutch dominated the opening 20 minutes in Berne, controlling the midfield area in particular. Their tightness to the likes of Makelele, Govou and Malouda stifled France’s ambitions to bring Thierry Henry and Franck Ribery into the game. In contrast, Holland linked the ball to their front men expertly, with Van Nistelrooy and Kuyt involved in everything that was good about the early exchanges. It was Dirk Kuyt who found the French defence napping on nine minutes to give Holland the lead. From a near post Giovanni van Bronckhorst corner, Kuyt sneaked in between Malouda and Henry to power a close range header beyond Gregory Coupet. France’s defence was too busy focusing on the more imposing Dutch figures of Mathijsen and Ooijer to notice Kuyt’s movement into the six yard box.

If France’s set piece defending was disappointing, their reaction to going one down was even more of a let down. Sneijder and Kuyt fashioned further chances for the Dutch, with Henry and Ribery’s involvement in the game still non-existent. It was not until the 23rd minute that France fashioned their first real chance of the game, when a low cross from Ribery found Sidney Govou on the edge of the penalty area. He twisted and turned his man, firing in a good shot that was pushed wide by Edwin Van der Sar. The lively Govou presented himself with another chance on 34 minutes, again shooting straight at Van der Sar. By which point the French were finally looking to turn this game into a contest and had the best of the final 15 minutes of the first half.

France continued as they had left off at the beginning of the second period. Ribery forced an early corner and an Henry shot brought calls for a penalty, as his close range effort deflected off the hand of the Dutch defender Ooijer. Henry was at the heart of the match’s turning point on 53 minutes. The Barcelona man was put through one-on-one with Van der Sar by an acrobatic overhead kick from Florent Malouda, but couldn’t accurately lob the ball over the Dutch keeper. The question is would the Thierry Henry of eighteen months ago have put this chance away? The answer is most likely yes. Just four minutes later France and Henry were made to pay by his former Arsenal team-mate Robin Van Persie. Holland, as they did to such great effect against Italy, won possession of the ball in their own half and quickly turned defence into attack. Van Nistelrooy neatly turned two French midfielders on the halfway line, releasing the pacey Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben. The substitute tore down the left wing, putting a precise, far post cross onto the right foot of Van Persie, who’s shot carried enough power to beat Gregory Coupet’s outstretched palm.

Although Holland threatened to run riot with further chances for Robben and Van Persie shortly after, France were not yet dead and buried. Ribery responded to Holland’s second goal, firing a wicked shot at Van der Sar, which was palmed clear by the Manchester United goalkeeper. Then Theirry Henry gave them real hope, converting an excellent run and cross by Willy Sagnol beyond Van der Sar to reduce the deficit. But having barely drawn breath, Henry could only watch on in horror as, from the resulting kick off, Holland restored their two-goal advantage. The Dutch released the tricky Robben with some neat interplay and the winger lashed a shot from a tight angle into the roof of the French net. Henry fell to the ground, knowing the game was now beyond him and his team mates.

Holland wrapped up another perfect performance with another exceptional goal. Sneijder hit a venomous strike from outside the French box in stoppage time, adding maybe the fifth or sixth entry from the Dutch so far to the goal of the tournament competition. The final whistle sounded and Marco Van Basten and the Holland bench leapt to their feet to rejoice in a truly masterful performance. In contrast, Raymond Domenech slumped away from the Wankdorf Stadium knowing, that like Italy’s Roberto Donadoni , he is likely to have just one game left to save his future as French national manager. His inability to change the team dynamic when it’s been crucially needed, as in the last game against Romania, was sadly lacking this evening. Euro 2008 may also prove to be one tournament too far for the likes of Lilian Thuram, William Gallas, Claude Makelele and Theirry Henry, all a shadow of their former selves on this evidence.

But this night, in fact this tournament so far belongs to Holland. Van Basten’s team have been winning in style and with a team morale not evident amongst a Dutch team since their European Championship triumph in 1988.

The future for Euro 2008 is bright, the future is orange.

France (4-4-1-1)

Coupet, Gallas, Thuram, Sagnol, Evra, Toulalan, Makelele, Govou (Anelka 75), Malouda (Gomis 60), Ribery, Henry

Booked Makelele, Toulalan

Holland (4-3-2-1)

Van der Sar, Ooijer, Boulahrouz, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst, Kuyt (Van Persie 55) , De Jong, Van der Vaart (Bouma 78), Engelaar (Robben 46) Sneijder, Van Nistelrooy

Booked Ooijer

Ref – Herbert Fandel

By Andy Greeves for


Andy Greeves



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