Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the international friendly meeting between the Netherlands
at the Amsterdam ArenA. Les Bleus will step up their preparations for this summer's European Championship on home soil by testing themselves against a Dutch side with plenty to prove following their recent failure to reach the finals.
The Oranje are very much at a crossroads at this moment in time, which has given boss Danny Blind
a chance to bed in some younger players with an eye to a more positive future. Thursday's passing of Johan Cruyff
has overshadowed the build-up to this game somewhat, though, so before checking out these two teams in a little more detail let's first look back at the life of the Dutch footballing legend.
The three-time European footballer of the year lost his battle with lung cancer earlier this week, bringing an end to a truly remarkable tale. Cruyff's legacy will continue to live on, however, with many past and present players already paying tribute to the one man who arguably did more to shape football than any other. From the famous Dutch side of the 70s through to the Barcelona Dream Team of the 90s, Cruyff had a major say on the way the game has been played.
Even now, in the shape of Barcelona's current group of players, Cruyff's own work is ingrained in the club's psyche. As a player he managed to win three consecutive European Cups with Ajax from 1971, before going on to coach Barcelona to their first European Cup triumph in 1992. The chief creator helped this Dutch side reach the World Cup final in 1974, too, where the Oranje would famously go on to lose 2-1 at the hands of West Germany.
So tonight provides home supporters, and indeed the travelling contingent of French supporters in Amsterdam, to pay further respect to the great man who passed away this week at the age of 68. It should also be noted that a minute's silence will be held before kickoff in the wake of events that took place in Belgium earlier this week. There has been plenty of talk about whether fixtures will be played behind closed doors in France this summer, but for now football must continue to go on.
NETHERLANDS STARTING XI: Cillessen, Veltman, Willems, Blind, Bruma, Van Dijk, Clasie, Sneijder, Klaassen, De Jong, Promes
FRANCE STARTING XI: Mandanda, Jallet, Evra, Varane, Koscielny, Diarra, Matuidi, Pogba, Payet, Griezmann, Giroud
The Netherlands, desperately attempting to win back over fans following a disastrous Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, line up in a 5-3-2 formation this evening. Joel Veltman starts at right-back, while Southampton midfielder Jordy Clasie will protect his defensive teammates. Former Premier League player Luuk de Jong is tasked with leading the line, meanwhile, alongside the talented Quiny Promes.
Stoke City's Ibrahim Afellay and Sunderland's Patrick Van Aanholt were both called up to the squad earlier this week, replacing injured PSV Eindhoven duo Davy Propper and Jurgen Locadia, but neither are included in the starting lineup for the Netherlands. One familiar name in the centre of the park is the ageing Wesley Sneijder, who has been asked to lead this group towards qualification to Russia 2018.
Plenty of key players still absent for the hosts, though, as Arjen Robben, Daryl Janmaat and Ron Vlaar all missing out through various injury problems. The overhaul has very much began, with the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong all now surplus to requirements under Danny Blind
. This is very much a new age for Total Football - all very relevant in this of all weeks.
In terms of the visiting side, Olivier Giroud is given the nod to lead the line despite his current club struggles. It is a team boasting plenty of talent right through the ranks, but perhaps the big talking point is the inclusion of Dimitri Payet. The West Ham United ace has well and truly worked his way well into Didier Deschamps
' thinking thanks to a superb maiden campaign in English football, where he has already created a league-high 133 chances for his teammates.
Plenty of Premier League stars on show for both sides this evening, including West Ham United ace Dimitri Payet. The former Marseille man is now back in Didier Deschamps' thinking thanks to a stellar campaign in the English top flight, with this match at the Amsterdam Arena providing a real platform to make himself undroppable ahead of the final Euro 2016 selection in two months' time.
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France are still without Karim Benzema, of course, due to the ongoing extortion case that is causing Les Bleus plenty of internal problems. Mathieu Valbuena is also linked to that case, but he is also left out this evening due to fitness concerns. The players looking to capitalise on Benzema's absence are the aforementioned Giroud - who really needs to up his performance levels tonight - and Atletico Madrid's in-form forward Antoine Griezmann.
No N'Golo Kante from the off for France, though, meaning that the Leicester City midfielder will have to wait for his international bow. Blaise Matuidi
, a goalscorer when these two sides last met, and Paul Pogba will look to dominate the midfield battle up against Davy Klaassen, Sneijder and Clasie - what a tussle that could turn out to be in the city of Amsterdam. Plenty of talking points, then, but what about the back-up options?
NETHERLANDS SUBS: Zoet, Vermeer, Van Aanholt, Letschert, Karsdorp, Bazoer, Afellay, Wijnaldum, Narsingh, Huntelaar, Janssen, Memphis
FRANCE SUBS: Lloris, Costil, Gignas, Martial, Sagna, Mathieu, Coman, Digne, Sakho, Sissoko, Kante, Cabaye
Manchester United duo Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial
will be on opposing benches, then, with both managers expected to change things around as the match goes on. This friendly is about building momentum for both - for differing reasons, in many ways, but checking out certain players and different combinations is also important. One thing is for certain - both teams boast real world-class talents at their disposal, with France in particular in a good position to dominate at international level in the years to come.
So a terrible recent qualification campaign for the Flying Dutchmen has left them at a crossroads in the months leading up to their Russia 2018 fixtures. It all looked so bright at one point, having finished third at the previous World Cup under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal, only to badly fail despite the expanded qualification process. Things really did go from bad to worse in Group A, where they eventually finished below Iceland, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Since seeing off Brazil 3-0 in the third-place playoff at the World Cup a little under two years ago, the Netherlands have won just six of their 16 fixtures in all. Eight of those have ended in defeat, in fact, highlighting just how the mighty have fallen in the subsequent months since their decent showing in South America. The European Championship will certainly miss the Oranje this summer, but there is no denying that Blind's charges deserved to miss out on qualification at the first hurdle.
Blind just about got his side back to winning ways last time out, beating Wales 3-2 in a friendly at the Cardiff City Stadium. That fixture back in November may have had little riding on it, but the Oranje seemed determined to begin a new campaign on a high which they managed to achieve by the skin of their teeth. Wales dug deep throughout and looked to have earned a positive result on home soil, only for an Arjen Robben-inspired Dutch side to pick up the win.
It was the 3-2 defeat to the Czech Republic in their last competitive outing that truly dealt the killer blow, however, signalling that change was desperately required throughout. Speaking to the press this week, Sneijder - a man who has plenty of experience under his belt - talked of a promising future ahead. The former Real Madrid ace even suggested that his side can follow in the footsteps of Belgium and climb back to the top of the world rankings with this new crop of youngsters coming through the ranks.
Only time will tell on that front, but a game like this one certainly provides an opportunity to see exactly how Blind plans to tackle the obstacles ahead. With a football-free summer ahead, the Netherlands can now focus on competitive fixtures as preparations begin for Russia 2018 - a tournament that the flying Dutchmen are not only expected to qualify for but also potentially better their third-place finish of 2014. Football stands still for no one team, and these are certainly testing times for Blind & Co.
DID YOU KNOW?
These two teams are set to lock horns once again later this year, although there will be plenty more at stake in that one. That is because the Netherlands and France have been drawn together in qualifying for Russia 2018, alongside Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg - a tough group that should provide plenty of excitement all the way through. They first meet in October this year, before the return meeting in August 2017.
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France are very much focused on the here and now, though, as they look to make a real impact at their home European Championship in a little over two months' time. Les Bleus have not played a competitive international since being knocked out of the World Cup by eventual winners Germany two years ago, but a change in the format meant that they have at least had plenty of friendly action since their last 'proper' run-out in Brazil.
It is fair to say that Deschamps' charges experienced a mixed bag of results in the year following the World Cup, with a narrow victory over Spain arguably the pick of the bunch, but that was followed up by a more recent run of five wins on the bounce. That victorious streak was put to an end by England back in November, but you may remember that game lost all significance coming just a few days on from the horror attacks in Paris.
France have four friendlies ahead of their opening Euro 2016 fixture on June 10, with Cameroon, Russia and Scotland the opponents of choice following today's Dutch trip. It is fair to say that Les Bleus will encounter every type of opponent possible between now and the summer, then, with that Scotland meeting potentially providing a warm-up for a tie against another British side in Wales, Northern Ireland or England come the knockout stages.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! These two sides have met on 23 previous occasions; the Netherlands coming out on top 10 times compared to their opponents' tally of nine victories. For those who struggle with mathematics, that means four matches have ended in a draw - an outcome that the bookies are largely backing this evening. The last time they faced off was in March 2014 when goals from Benzema and Matuidi earned France a 2-0 win.
Plenty of the talk heading into the match surrounded who exactly Deschamps would field up top. Well we now know the answer - Giroud and Griezmann being given the nod - but what exactly can those two bring to this side? The latter is in superb form this term at Atletico Madrid, scoring 17 goals in 30 outings so far, while Giroud has just two in his last 15 for Arsenal.
There is no Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the starting lineup for the Netherlands this evening, but we can surely expect to see him introduced from the bench at some stage should the hosts be chasing a goal. The Schalke forward has a decent scoring rate at international level, finding the net 42 times in 76 internationals, including six in his last six in Amsterdam. The omens are certainly good, but will Blind turn to the 32-year-old?
Now as mentioned a little earlier, the build-up to this match has been dominated by the death of Johan Cruyff
on Thursday. The Dutch footballing legend had quite some impact on the Orange stars of the past and present, and no doubt on the future crop coming through the ranks. Wesley Sneijder is among those to have been hard hit by the news, telling reporters on the eve of the game:
"I've been able to know Johan Cruyff on a personal level. The last time I saw him was at the birthday of [former Netherlands international] Sjaak Swart. It's a black day. Yes, we played football together that day. It's a black day for everyone I think."
Both sets of players are now making their way down the tunnel, with kickoff at the Amsterdam ArenA just a few minutes away.
Before getting underway in Amsterdam, we will first half a minute's silence in respect of those who lost their lives in Brussels earlier this week. This will be a particularly tough moment for those French players out on the field, who themselves were effected at an individual level following a similar attack in November.
KICKOFF! We are up and running in Amsterdam, around five minutes or so later than scheduled. All home players entered the field of play wearing shirts sporting the number 14 in tribute to the great Johan Cruyff. Remember, 14 minutes in we will have a brief pause in respect to the Dutch footballing legend.
A fitting venue to stage this heavyweight contest this evening, with a sea of orange watching on. A very good atmosphere inside the Amsterdam ArenA, but it is the visitors who are just about on top in these opening stages. Payet had an early touch of the ball which he sent up-field to nobody in particular.
France dictating the tempo of play in midfield at the moment, which is not at all surprising judging by the options available to them in that particular position. It is left to Pogba to drive the ball forward, which he does with ease before feeding it out wide.
SAVE! Payet already looking a real threat, picking up the ball in some space around 20 yards from goal and bending a shot towards the bottom corner. Cilessen was equal to it, but from the next wave of attack a free kick was conceded right on the edge of the box.
GOAL! NETHERLANDS 0-1 FRANCE (ANTOINE GRIEZMANN)
From the resulting free kick Griezmann thumps the ball into the top corner beyond the reach of Cilessen. Payet, who came close just moments earlier, was also over the ball but the Atletico Madrid man was perfectly suited to lift the ball over the wall and into the back of the net. What a goal that is. What a start for the French!
A very, very assured showing from France so far - exactly what you would expect to see from the side backed as second favourites to win the Euros this summer. The Netherlands have been unable to get out of first gear so far, which is largely due to the dominant start made by their opponents.
The hosts get into the final third of the field for the first time tonight really, earning themselves a free kick in a near-identical position to the one France scored from a little while ago. No such luck for Sneijder, though, who hammered the ball into the wall. Better from the Oranje, nonetheless.
GOAL! NETHERLANDS 0-2 FRANCE (OLIVIER GIROUD)
France are in dreamland here, bagging a second goal inside the opening 15 minutes of the match through another forward player in Olivier Giroud. It was as simple as you like, really, as a knockdown from a corner was blasted home from close range by the Arsenal man. That came seconds before the pre-planned minute's applause for Johan Cruyff - not the best timing but beautifully observed all the same.
Promes bursts into the opposition box for pretty much the first time tonight, but Mandanda is straight on the subsequent pull-back for his first tough of the ball. Superb start from France, who must now keep up this tempo in order to kill off the game before the interval.
CHANCE! It really should be game over, with less than a quarter of the contest played. Matuidi swung in a cross from the left which Griezmann got on the end of, but his diving header ended a few inches over the bar. Cilessen should have been making a save at the very least.
Netherlands have certainly improved since going two behind, finally coming out of their shell a little more and getting bodies forward. Nothing to trouble France just yet, though, and the visitors still look the more likely to add the game's third goal as we head towards the second quarter of the match.
SAVE! Much, much better from the men in orange, as Promes and De Jong link up superbly in attack before the former gets in a rare shot on goal. Mandanda, at long last, has had a save to make! Can the hosts now keep up this spell of pressure in order to make it game on once more?
It has been a dominant showing by the visitors so far, who lead 2-0 thanks to a stunning Antoine Griezmann free kick and a belting strike from Olivier Giroud. The Netherlands have improved since their two-goal setback early on, but it is France who are currently well in control.
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SAVE! Payet's trickery is causing all sorts of problems for the France defenders at the moment. The West Ham ace swung in a decent cross, which Van Dijk flicked on just a yard wide of his own goal. Almost the most embarrassing of moments, but it was so nearly three from the resulting corner as Griezmann tested Cilessen with a close-range header.
Matuidi goes down in the box under minimal contact, with the referee quick to wave play on. A familiar theme to the game now - the Netherlands getting into more advanced positions but the French quickly winning back possession and mounting the odd counter-attacking move.
So a couple of chances for Griezmann to put the game well and truly beyond the hosts but, having failed to do so - largely thanks to a huge Cilessen save a few minutes ago - the Oranje still have an outside chance of rescuing a draw from this match. Plenty of time to go to stage a comeback.
A near-perfect free kick is swung in by Payet into dangerous position, yet Pogba and Koscielny both somehow failed to make a telling touch on the ball. France may rue failing to capitalise on these openings, as the Netherlands can surely only improve in the second half.
Van Aanholt has been sent out to warm up, so we may see a glimpse of the Sunderland full-back. He was a late call-up himself this week, with injury problems continuing to hit Danny Blind hard. That cannot be blamed for this very slow start to the match, though, which the French are cruising through at the moment.
NETHERLANDS SUB! Blind may have been tempted into making a couple of changes already, but he has been forced into this one eight minutes before the interval. Wesley Sneijder has picked up a calf injury and has been replaced by Bazoer - an Ajax player who is greeted by plenty of cheers.
The game has certainly quietened down over the past 10 minutes or so, ever since Griezmann came close to bagging a second of the evening. The Netherlands looking to see this one through to the interval, perhaps, where Blind will likely make a further change or two.
France have got to be careful not to drop off too much. Les Bleus have not really put together any attacking moves for the last 10 or 11 minutes, with the Netherlands being allowed to knock the ball around at their will. This first half is just petering out a bit.
The Pogba-Matuidi-Diarra midfield combination is certainly coming out on top so far, while Payet, Griezmann and Giroud have also been the most lively attacking players on the field. Plenty for the Dutch to think about at the break, knowing that a third goal conceded will well and truly kill off their hopes of a draw.
Just one minute of added time to be played at the Amsterdam Arena and, just like the vast majority of the game so far, France are ending the opening period on top. A corner will be whipped in to see out this dominant first-half showing.
CHANCE! Another brilliant chance for France to wrap up the victory, this time falling to full-back Patrice Evra. The corner landed nicely for the former Man United defender, who just could not make the desired connection with the ball. An easy stop for Cilessen down low in the end.
HALF TIME: NETHERLANDS 0-2 FRANCE
So France the side well on top as the half-time whistle sounds in Amsterdam, bringing to a close a one-sided contest to date. The Netherlands have not created a single chance, with their only shot on target arriving from Promes' long-range attempt around 23 minutes in. That aside, it has been a half to forget for Danny Blind and his men.
As far as the visitors are concerned, they will just be disappointed not to have wrapped up the victory for good. The first shot on target arrived five minutes in, as Payet tricked his way into some space and tested Cilessen with a decent curled effort towards the bottom corner. Just 60 seconds later the ball was indeed in the net, thanks to a superbly struck free kick from Griezmann.
A little over six minutes later Les Bleus had a second, as Giroud thumped home Matiudi's knockdown inside the area to leave the Dutch with it all to do. Griezmann should have added a third when meeting a cross into the box, which he headed over the crossbar despite being well positioned. The Atleti man was again involved later in the half, timing his run brilliantly to this time force Cilessen into a smart stop with a headed attempt.
The final opening of the half fell Patrice Evra's way, but he failed to convert from close range when picked out at a corner. A real dominant display by France in the opening 45 minutes, then, but still a chance for the Netherlands to pull themselves level with an improved performance after the restart.
NETHERLANDS SUBS: Zoet, Vermeer, Van Aanholt, Letschert, Karsdorp, Afellay, Wijnaldum, Narsingh, Huntelaar, Janssen, Memphis
FRANCE SUBS: Lloris, Costil, Gignas, Martial, Sagna, Mathieu, Coman, Digne, Sakho, Sissoko, Kante, Cabaye
We are back underway at the Amsterdam ArenA, with news a couple of changes to bring you from the interval. Kante is on for his France debut in place of Diarra, while Memphis has been introduced for the home side.
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GOAL! NETHERLANDS 1-2 FRANCE (LUUK DE JONG)
Well having been completely dominated in the first half, it has taken the Netherlands less than two minutes of the second period to find a way through. Memphis has made an instant impact, swinging in a nice free kick which Luuk De Jong helped on from close range. Might have come off his arm, but he was given the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.
Time to bring you up to speed with a few more changes. Digne, Martial and Kante are on for Evra, Griezmann and Diarra; Depay and Affelay the men on to replace Clasie and Van Dijk for the hosts. Game on at long last in Amsterdam, with an intriguing final 40 minutes ahead.
With those changes now made fingers crossed the momentum of the game will not be disrupted too much. Expect more alterations as the match goes on, but for now the Netherlands can build up a head of steam. Great atmosphere inside the Amsterdam ArenA now, just 25 minutes or so after the home players were booed off the pitch!
CLOSE! Klaassen gets on the end of a cross into the box, which he does well to head low and on target. Mandanda is stretched for the first time this evening, but does well to get behind the attempt on the line. The Dutch on top now in search of a leveller.
Yet another fine Payet free kick delivery, which Giroud cannot quite divert goalwards. Another wave of changes may be on the horizon - something that will suit the visitors a little more than their opponents as they are second best on the whole.
So France still yet to have a single shot in this second half, having fired in eight during the opening 45 minutes. Evenly balanced now all of a sudden, but it is still Les Bleus who lead 2-1 heading into the final third of the match.
OFF THE POST! Payet has been superb all evening on his return to the international fold, and is desperately unlucky to find a way through on this occasion. His shot from 25 yards out had plenty of bend on it, but not enough to stop it crashing back off the upright and to safety.
Half a chance for Klaasen, who meets Willems' cross from the left but gets his angles all wrong. Closer to the corner flag than the back of the net, in truth, but this is very positive from the hosts. There is certainly a fourth goal in this match!
Memphis Depay made an instant impact after coming off the bench at half time, setting up Luuk de Jong's goal to give the Netherlands a real chance of gaining a draw from a fixture that looked well beyond them at one stage.
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France just beginning to regain some more control of the game, much like we saw in the first half. Pogba decides to take on a shot from range, which Cilessen is well behind - easy stop. Willems has just taken an elbow to the face and must now leave the field to receive some treatment.
Willems still being looked at after drawing blood, so maybe a chance for attack-minded full-back Van Aanholt to be introduced? Both teams just taking it in turns to knock the ball around at the moment, with not a great deal of action in either attacking third.
YELLOW CARD! Matuidi allows his opponent to get away from him for pretty much the first time all evening, meaning a yellow card and a free kick in a good position for the Netherlands. Willems, back on the pitch, sends the ball a good yard over the bar.
SHOT! Memphis has made a real difference for the Flying Dutchmen, with his latest jinking run causing all sorts of problems in the French defence. The ball is eventually worked to Klaasen, whose latest attempt is right down the throat of Mandanda.
FRANCE SUB! Gignac has been introduced in place of Giroud. Not seen an awful lot of the Arsenal forward in this second half, but he did at least get on the scoresheet early on. Just over 15 minutes to go in Amsterdam.
NETHERLANDS SUB! Klaasen has done well in this second half, but his evening is at an end. Another familiar face on now for Premier League viewers, as Wijnaldum is given a 15-minutes runout. Pogba has just bent a shot a fair distance over the bar when picked out unmarked.
NETHERLANDS SUB! Willems is the latest player to leave the field, with Van Aanholt on in his place. An obvious replacement to make at this late stage, that, but the Dutch are doing themselves no good in terms of momentum. Play disrupted constantly at the moment.
Another half-chance for France to score the game's fourth goal, but Matuidi gets his header all wrong when picked out from a free kick. That goal scored by Giroud in the first half was the 1,000th the Dutch have conceded in their illustrious history, incidentally.
NETHERLANDS SUB! Janseen is on for De Jong in attack, and he almost makes an immediate impact when sending a shot wide of goal. Eight minuted for the Netherlands to rescue a draw, but there is very little momentum for either side at the moment.
GOAL! NETHERLANDS 2-2 FRANCE (IBRAHIM AFELLAY)
Well France have completely thrown this game away, conceding a second goal of this second half in such a lax manner. The ball found its way through to Afellay - only called up to the squad as a late replacement - and he coolly tucked away at the first time of asking. A second assist of the night for Memphis.
GOAL! NETHERLANDS 2-3 FRANCE (BLAISE MATUIDI)
What's the old saying about being at your most vulnerable once scoring a goal?! France have surely won this game at the death thanks to Matuidi's strike - the number 14 tucking away on a night that a Dutch number 14 is being remembered. Martial slipped the ball through for the PSG man to do the rest through Cilessen's legs.
Three minutes of added time to come at the Amsterdam Arena, meaning plenty of time for more late drama. What a game we have witnessed this evening - hopefully there is one more twist in the tale!
France the side pushing at the moment, pegging the Dutch back to prove that the best form of defence is to attack. Almost job done for Deschamps and his side, who will return to winning ways if they see out the final 60 seconds.
FULL TIME: NETHERLANDS 2-3 FRANCE
The referee blows for full time, bringing to a close a real thrilling international friendly in Amsterdam. France led for so long, but when Afellay found a way through in the final 10 minutes it appeared as though the Netherlands would leave with a battling draw. That all changed two minutes from time, though, as Blaise Matuidi scored a dramatic winner.
Well that brings to a close our live text coverage of events at the Amsterdam ArenA, on a night when a number 14 settled a game that had been overshadowed by the untimely death of a great Dutch player who famously carried the same number on his shirt. Be sure to stick around for plenty of reaction from across this evening's friendly games. Thanks for joining!