New France captain Kylian Mbappe lived up to expectations with two goals in a 4-0 statement home win against the Netherlands as Les Bleus got their Euro 2024 Group B qualifying campaign started in ruthless fashion on Friday evening.
Mbappe, named skipper after Hugo Lloris ended his international career in January, set up Antoine Griezmann for the opener before scoring the third, after Dayot Upamecano had doubled the tally in a first-half blitz, before wrapping the scoring up late in front of an ecstatic crowd.
Mike Maignan, the number one goalkeeper since Lloris stepped aside, then saved Memphis Depay’s stoppage-time penalty.
With influential centre back Raphael Varane also now out of the international picture, France aimed to impress the fans in their first game since losing the World Cup final against Argentina on penalties in December and did just that against a virus-hit Dutch side under their newly-appointed manager.
The result was a slap in the face for Ronald Koeman in charge of his first match since he took over from Louis van Gaal, after the Oranje reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar, for his second stint after a first spell from 2018-2020.
“It’s great,” said Mbappe. “We didn’t want to concede a goal so everyone is happy. Mike doesn’t like to concede goals and for his first time as number one he got a clean sheet.
“We’re all behind him. We prepared ourselves saying we couldn’t disappoint the fans for this first game here after the World Cup.”
France lead Group B ahead of Greece, who beat Gibraltar 3-0 away. Didier Deschamps’s side next face Ireland in Dublin on Monday while the Netherlands host Gibraltar.
The Dutch, missing five players after the squad was ravaged by a viral infection, got off to a woeful start as Les Bleus broke the deadlock after two minutes, Griezmann finishing off a superb move in style with a curled shot from Mbappe’s cross inside the area.
The visiting defence then made a dog’s dinner of Griezmann’s free kick and Upamecano bundled the ball home to double the advantage six minutes later.
“If you’re 2-0 behind after seven minutes it will of course be a hell of a job,” said Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk.
“We just started badly and then you are behind… Then they play a fairly simple match with their qualities. We’ll have to look at this, it’s difficult to analyse it so quickly, but 2-0 behind after seven minutes is just a shame.”
It got worse for the Dutch when Mbappe made it 3-0 after 22 minutes, rolling the ball in from close range in clinical fashion after being played through by Aurelien Tchouameni.
The visitors briefly threatened on the break but Depay’s attempt went just wide as Koeman sent striker Wout Weghorst on for midfielder Kenneth Taylor in the 33rd minute.
France came close again when Ibrahima Konate’s header was tipped away by Jasper Cillessen nine minutes before the break.
The Netherlands had an early chance in the second half with a Depay free kick but that was as close as they got with Upamecano and Konate marshalling the French central defence.
Randal Kolo Muani, who started as a lone forward in France’s 4-3-3 formation, also put in a decent display until he was substituted for Olivier Giroud in the 76th minute.
France then took things easy before travelling to Dublin, but Mbappe rubbed salt into Dutch wounds, dancing his way towards the area before unleashing a powerful cross-shot for the fourth goal and his 38th in 67 appearances.
Maignan’s late penalty save then left fans wondering what might have been if the AC Milan keeper had been in goal for the final at the World Cup – a tournament he missed through injury.