Dutch Fall to France Amid Cruyff Tribute

Cruyff tribute in Dutch-France friendly

Friday’s friendly between the Netherlands and France had some added meaning due to some unfortunate news on Thursday. Early on Thursday, it was announced that Dutch legend Johan Cruyff had lost his battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 68. Cruyff’s death was mourned by virtually every person affiliated with the beautiful game, and cast a shadow over this fixture. Technically speaking, this friendly had no real importance for France or the Netherlands, but it would now serve as a makeshift memorial to one of the greatest players to ever step on the pitch.

France had a dream start to the match after Antoine Griezmann’s curling free kick found the side netting after just six minutes. The lead was doubled six minutes later when Blase Matuidi’s header found Olivier Giroud on the edge of the six-yard box. The Arsenal striker made no mistake as he hammered his shot past Jasper Cillessen. Things weren’t really looking good for Danny Blind and the Dutch.

In the 14th minute, the play stopped as players and fans took a moment to applaud in remembrance of Johan Cruyff’s life. The former Ajax player put on the famous orange shirt 48 times, and scored an unbelievable 33 goals. He helped the Dutch to the 1974 World Cup Final, but unfortunately lost to West Germany.

READ: History’s Greatest Teams: The Total Football of 1974 Netherlands

Griezmann was unlucky to score his second of the match just before the 20-minute mark as his header sailed just inches high of the net. Five minutes later, Griezmann came close again with a header, but this time Cillessen made a fantastic kick save to keep the deficit to two goals. Didier Deschamps’ side looked miles better than their Dutch counterparts.

A low header from Patrice Evra in the first minute of stoppage time looked dangerous for a moment, but it rolled right into Cillessen’s arms. When the whistle for halftime blew, the Dutch were lucky to only be down by two goals. It was clear that the French were trying to send a message that they will be a force to be reckoned with come this summer’s Euros.

Just as the French had opened the scoring early in the first half, the Dutch found the back of the net two minutes into the second half. A free kick from Memphis Depay on the left wing found the head/arm of Luuk De Jong. The PSV striker’s deflection left Steve Mandanda helpless and put the Dutch right back into the match.

Dimitri Payet came within inches of scoring an absolute beauty on the hour mark, but his curled effort smacked off the outside of the post after beating Cillessen. The Dutch looked better in the second half, but they still looked vulnerable to the French attack.

A relatively uneventful second half got some excitement in the final ten minutes. A set piece play from Memphis’ corner kick found a wide open Ibrahim Afellay wide open on the edge of the penalty area. The Stoke City midfielder’s first-time shot found the far side netting and levelled the score.

Almost immediatley after, Blase Matuidi put the French back ahead. Matuidi was played in by Anthony Martial, and slid a shot through the legs of Cillessen to make the score 3-2 in favor of the French.

Matuidi’s goal in the 87th minute would prove to be the winner as France narrowly beat the Dutch in Amsterdam. Danny Blind will be happy that his side managed to fight his side back into the match, but they just didn’t have the composure to hold on to that momentum. Can the French build on this result and go into the Euros in good form?

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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