Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 19 News List

France win on emotional evening

AFP, PARIS

France’s Paul Pogba, right, jumps to control the ball in their international friendly match against the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Arena on Friday.

Photo: AP

France claimed a 3-2 friendly win over the Netherlands on a night of emotion in Amsterdam on Friday, the day after Netherlands legend Johan Cruyff died at the age of 68.

The match at the Amsterdam Arena was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the 31 people killed and 300 injured in the Brussels attacks on Tuesday.

The game was then paused in the 14th minute for 60 seconds of applause, as the players and supporters remembered Cruyff, the man who pioneered “Total Football” and inspired the Netherlands to the 1974 FIFA World Cup final.

Before that though, Euro 2016 hosts France had taken control on their way to a win that sends a real message to their rivals for the continental title.

Antoine Griezmann sparked the match into life early on as he gave France the lead with a precise left-footed free-kick, and Olivier Giroud lashed home from close range to make it two in the 13th minute.

Home manager Danny Blind responded by making two changes at halftime, and his men dragged themselves back into the match through Luuk de Jong.

Substitute Ibrahim Afellay drove the Netherlands level in the 86th minute, but there was still time for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi to snatch the victory for the visitors.

“There were some very good things. Our attacking trio created a lot of problems for the Dutch defense,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.

“In the second half, it was not the same players, so you cannot judge it the same. After a long break of five months, we did some good things and got the win,” he added.

The visitors forged ahead in the sixth minute, as Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann continued his red-hot run of form by curling into the top corner from the edge of the area, grabbing his sixth goal in seven games for club and country.

Things got even better for France as they doubled their lead seven minutes later.

Against a hapless Netherlands side, who failed to qualify for this summer’s Euros, Deschamps’ men were in total control, with Giroud pouncing inside the box to drill a volley low into the corner.

The goal comes at a perfect time for France and Giroud, with the striker having lost his place in Arsenal’s starting lineup, and at a time when Karim Benzema’s international future remains in the balance after the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape scandal.

Blind’s Netherlands outfit finished fourth in their Euro qualifying group behind Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey, and they were all at sea at the back as Griezmann headed over when well-placed.

Wingers Afellay and Memphis Depay came on at the break, and less than two minutes after the restart, De Jong halved the deficit by turning in Depay’s free-kick with his arm.

The Netherlands appeared to have snatched a draw when Depay rolled his corner along the ground to his fellow substitute Afellay and the Stoke City man smashed in his seventh international goal.

However, any result other than a win would have been harsh on France, and they completed a remarkable end to the game when Anthony Martial set up Matuidi to nutmeg goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen in the 88th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty for the second time in a week as hosts Portugal slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Bulgaria.

Brazilian-born Marcelinho bundled the away team, who unlike their hosts have not qualified for the Euros, into a surprise lead in the 19th minute.

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