Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 18 News List

EURO 2008: Dutch thrash France to top Group C

SUPER SUBSUnder pressure from the World Cup finalists, instead of using defensive substitutions Netherlands coach Marco van Basten went for more attackers and it paid off


France’s William Gallas, right, and Dirk Kuyt of the Netherlands clash during their Group C match at the Stade de Suisse in Berne, Switzerland, on Friday.


France stood on the brink of elimination on Friday after the Netherlands maintained their dream start with a 4-1 win over the 2000 champions to book their place in the quarter-finals.

Goals from Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder and second half substitutes Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben knocked the stuffing out of France and left the Oranje army marching on to join Portugal and Croatia in the last eight.

For France, this defeat, coming on top of their opening draw with Romania, meant their first major finals without Zinedine Zidane are turning into a nightmare and they now must beat world champions Italy in their final Group C clash.

With just one point they not only need to beat the Azzurri but also pray the Netherlands can beat Romania, who are on two points, also on Tuesday.

“As long as our destiny is in our own hands we can go through. We must not give in. We must play a high-level match we are capable of against the Italians,” said France coach Raymond Domenech, who wielded the axe on the side that failed to fire in the goalless draw with Romania.

He notably brought back Thierry Henry, who at least netted a consolation.

“It’s a shame,” Henry said. “At 2-1 we could have given them cause to doubt, but they got their third right from the restart.”

In contrast to Domenech, his counterpart Marco van Basten was a picture of contentment, the former Dutch great saying: “We can only be happy after first beating the world champions 3-0 and France 4-1. We were a little lucky today, we made goals at the right time. I want to congratulate our defense and the whole team for their healthy spirit.”

Aside from the inclusion of Henry, France’s all-time top scorer who was fully recovered from a thigh problem that kept him out of Monday’s drab opener, Domenech also introduced Sidney Govou, the pair replacing Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema.

Domenech made one further switch, replacing defender Eric Abidal with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, while Patrick Vieira was on the bench.

Van Basten in contrast to his Gallic counterpart, adopted the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” naming an unchanged side from the one that felled world champions Italy 3-0 in their opening Group C game with Robben, who missed that game with a groin strain, starting on the bench.

France from the off were a more urgent purposeful and menacing outfit compared to the Romania match in Zurich, with Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda combining well up the left flank.

But the Dutch it was who took a 10th-minute lead, Kuyt heading in Rafael van der Vaart’s corner from the left to the delight of the Dutch fans, who included Johan Cruyff, at the Stade de Suisse.

The draw earlier between Romania and Italy meant France really had to get something out of the game or face having to pack their bags.

With their backs to the wall they only had one option — to attack — and in the 22nd minute went close to equalizing when Ribery played in a great ball from the right only for Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar to save Govou’s angled shot.

Down at the other end Sneijder, who had left such a mark on the Italian defense, tried a long range effort which was safely gathered up by Gregory Coupet.

As halftime approached Henry, who had not seen much of the ball, showed what a threat he could pose when turning on the edge of the box and shooting just over the crossbar.

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