Three months after a heartbreaking defeat in the World Cup final, France oozed class and confidence as they started their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of the Netherlands on Friday.
Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring with a curled shot from Kylian Mbappe before Dayot Upamecano added a second six minutes later. Mbappe made it 3-0 after being played through by Aurelien Tchouameni in the 21st minute and then wrapped it up with a cross-shot shot two minutes from time.
It was Mbappe’s first game as team captain after Hugo Lloris announced his international retirement and the Paris St Germain forward led by example while keeper Mike Maignan saved a late penalty in a flawless performance.
“There were a lot of positive vibes when they all gathered on Monday and I wanted them to transfer those vibes onto the pitch and that’s what they all did,” coach Didier Deschamps told a news conference.
“It was a great night, in a great atmosphere, with a very good start. Leading the Netherlands 3-0 so quickly is not nothing even though they were missing a lot of players.
“In the second half we were still threatening even if we were just happy with controlling the game.”
Among those who shone was Randal Kolo Muani, even if the forward did not find the back of the net.
“He’s full of confidence. He moves very well, dribbles very well, and there is a lot of understanding between the offensive players,” said Deschamps.
France lead Group B ahead of Greece, who beat Gibraltar 3-0 away.
Next up for Les Bleus is Ireland at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium while the Dutch will host Gibraltar.
Deschamps’s counterpart Ronald Koeman, back on the national team’s bench after a first stint from 2018-2020, endured a day to forget.
“If you make mistakes like that and lose the ball, they are too good for us. In football you can always make mistakes, but if you look at the first goal… the French are waiting for that and then they are so good that they punish it,” he told reporters.
“We lose the ball 20 metres from our own goal. Then you are seven minutes in and you are 2-0 behind. Then they wait and they can counter,” he added, refusing to make any excuses even though he had to make do without the services of five players who were sideline with a viral infection.
“It was about making mistakes in places where you should never do that. Making mistakes is allowed, but not there. I expected more from everyone.”