|France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (right) drives the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match France vs Netherlands at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on August 31. -- AFP Photo|
PARIS — France coach Didier Deschamps could not help showering his side with praise after their brilliant attack tore the Netherlands to shreds in a 4-0 win on Thursday.
Thomas Lemar scored twice either side of goals by Antoine Griezmann and man of the moment Kylian Mbappe in the key 2018 World Cup qualifying clash at an euphoric Stade de France.
"We performed very well. Apart from one header they created nothing while we had loads of chances. It is hugely satisfying to see France play so well collectively," said Deschamps after his side took a big step towards qualifying for next year’s finals in Russia.
The Euro 2016 runners-up are now three points clear of Sweden at the top of qualifying Group A with three games to go after the Swedes -- who beat France 2-1 in June -- lost 3-2 in Bulgaria on Thursday.
Rather than simply make it to Russia, though, the French should be one of the contenders to win the World Cup, such is their strength in depth, particularly going forward.
Griezmann and Olivier Giroud teamed up brilliantly in attack while Monaco winger Lemar was superb aside from his two goals and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman excelled in his first international appearance since the Euro final defeat to Portugal.
Mbappe started the game on the bench after his loan move to Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco had been completed shortly before kick-off, and Ousmane Dembele, the recent Barcelona signing, was not in the squad at all.
Alexandre Lacazette also came on for the French, and Deschamps’ biggest problem will be keeping all that talent happy and giving them game time.
"France have always had great attacking players. Don’t start comparing them to others who played for seven, eight, 10 years and won titles," Deschamps insisted.
"There is lots of quality but at international level the demands are high and these performances need to be built on. But I am not going to complain about the abundance.
"We have young players who have lots of ambition, although there will perhaps be more difficult periods," he added.
France can take another big step towards securing qualification when they face minnows Luxembourg in Toulouse on Sunday, while the Dutch are in real danger of missing a second straight major international tournament.
Absent from Euro 2016 in France, Dick Advocaat’s side now lie fourth in the qualifying group after this result, their heaviest defeat in a competitive game in more than a century.
Qualification is still on, though -- the Netherlands are three points behind second-placed Sweden, whom they host in Amsterdam in October.
Only the group winners qualify automatically while second will mean a two-legged play-off in November.
"We had no chance in this match. France are very, very strong. We didn’t play well, and France thoroughly deserved their win," said Advocaat, whose side had Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman sent off just after the hour mark with the score 1-0.
"Bulgaria’s result could help us. We still have it in our hands. There are three games left and if we win them we will be in the play-offs." — AFP