It was smiles all-round in Paris last night as France impressed during their mostly comfortable 2-0 win over Netherlands at the Stade de France.
Goals from Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi had the home side ahead before half-time in what, at times, was a very good performance. All eyes were on Manchester United and Arsenal target Antoine Griezmann, the 22-year-old did fairly well, but commented after the match "I can do better" which was backed up by coach Didier Deschamps.
French daily sports paper L'Equipe went with the headline "IL SE PASSE UN TRUC", meaning "something is happening", playing on the great feeling surrounding Les Bleus at the moment. Online they went with "Ils ont confirmé et séduit" as the team confirmed their excellent run of 17 matches unbeaten while seducing the fans in the process.
The notoriously harsh ratings from L'Equipe have both Griezmann and Paul Pogba as the lowest of the French side with a 5, bad news for the on looking David Moyes. Goal scorers Matuidi and Benzema scored an 8, naturally. The other top performers were Chelsea and Manchester City target Eliaquim Mangala, Newcastle United's Mathieu Debuchy and Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena all scoring 7 out of 10. No one from the Dutch team scored more than a 4.
L'Equipe ratings: Lloris 6 - Evra 6, Mangala 7, Varane 5, Debuchy 7 - Matuidi 8, Cabaye 6, Pogba 5 - Griezmann 5, Benzema 8, Valbuena 7
Holland: Cillessen 4; Van der Wiel 5, Vlaar 4, Martins-Indi 4, Blind 4; Clasie 3, Strootman N/S; Promes 4, Sneijder 3, Boetius 4, Van Persie 4
It was a slow game to begin with, and both sides were happy to knock the ball around without too much pressure, Netherlands having most of the early possession. Then France came to life, Benzema had the ball in the net, only for the linesman’s flag to go up. He was a couple of yards offside. That came moments after he had a header cleared off the line after excellent play for Griezmann to find the Real Madrid star. He was just warming up though.
Just after the 30 minute mark, Matuidi played a lovely lobbed pass over the strikers head, Benzema let it bounce before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Cillessen in the Dutch net. The pace and accuracy of the shot gave the 'keeper no chance.
Nine minutes later and it was game over thanks to the best move of the match. Benzema linked up with Matuidi on the half-way line, the striker then released Valbuena down the right-flank. Matuidi had continued his run, Valbuena played in the perfect cross, and the PSG midfielder applied the finish, with the ball behind him he managed to twist and volley it into the net while his body was moving away from goal. Not a bad way to score your first goal for your country.
Deschamps will have taken a few things from the game. Delighted that Benzema is back scoring and playing well for his country, the coach commented that the player was “radiant”. Lucas Digne did well at left-back, replacing Patrice Evra at half-time. Griezmann and Mangala did enough to prove they should be part of his 30-man squad. And it is before the next three friendlies that the former Marseille midfielder will have to make his decisions.
France plays Norway, Paraguay and Jamaica before their first World Cup group game against Honduras on June 15th. If France make it 20 games unbeaten, the hopes for Les Bleus will be très élevé.