France will host the Netherlands on August 31, Thursday in a very important match in Group A of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. Sweden is atop the group with 13 points while France is behind on goal difference. Netherlands, on the other hand, sits at third but a win over France will propel them to at least second place.
There is more pressure on the Netherlands since they could miss another major tournament with a loss to France. The Netherlands missed the European championship after a poor run of form and it has not improved in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, per Sky Sports. A shock defeat against Bulgaria last March led to the firing of Danny Blind, who was replaced by Dick Advocaat.
On the other hand, France has been inconsistent in their last eleven games with a record of seven wins, two draws and two losses. They defeated the Netherlands 1-0 last October 11, 2016 as part of the qualifiers. France has one of the most talented rosters in the world and they are the favorites to top Group A.
The Netherlands gets a boost in attack with the return of Robin van Persie, who has not played for his national team in almost two years. According to ESPN FC, the 34-year-old star was called up because Netherlands boss Dick Advocaat believes van Persie is still one of the best strikers in the world.
In the pre-match press conference (h/t The New York Times), Netherlands captain Arjen Robben remains positive that they are going to come to France and beat them. Robben wants his teammates to be confident in their abilities to pull off the upset.
“I think we must not think that we are not as good, we must be convinced of our own qualities and believe that we can beat them. I’m always very positive. We can well say that it will be difficult because France have a better team, but if you think like that, then you might as well stay at home.”
As for France manager Didier Deschamps, he is still being cautious because he believes that the Netherlands is still one of the best teams in the world. Deschamps told reporters (h/t GOAL.com) that the level of quality and talent of their opponents on Thursday has not gone down one bit.
“Their problem is that they did not qualify for Euro 2016. They did a great World Cup in 2014. There are a lot of experienced players who are still there. A new generation is coming. I don’t think the level of Dutch football has gone down, quite the opposite. There are always very good players, the oldest who are still there and the young ones, who have a lot of quality.”
The Netherlands are going to be thin on defense with Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Daryl Janmaat and Jeffrey Bruma all out while Vincent Janssen could keep Robin van Persie on the bench. On the other hand, France is without the injured Raphael Varane with Ousmane Dembele and Anthony Martial not getting called up.
France vs. Netherlands is scheduled on August 31 at the Stade de France in Paris. The game’s kickoff time is at 11:45 a.m. PT, 2:45 p.m. ET and 7:45 p.m. BST. Fans in the United States can watch it on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 while fans in the United Kingdom need to tune in on Sky Sports Football. The game is also available via live stream on WatchESPN, SKY GO Extra and NOW TV UK. For the complete list of channels where France vs. Netherlands can be watched, visit Live Soccer TV.
[Featured Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images]