France defeat Dutch on night of Cruyff emotion

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

France claimed an exciting 3-2 friendly win over the Netherlands on a night of emotion in Amsterdam on Friday, the day after Dutch 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 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 half-time, 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 Les Bleus.

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

“In the second half it wasn’t the same players, so you can’t judge it the same. After a long break of five months we did some good things and got the win.”

The visitors forged ahead in just the sixth minute, as Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann continued his red-hot run of form by curling in to 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 just seven minutes later.

Against a hapless Netherlands side who failed to qualify for this summer’s Euros, Deschamps’ men were in total control and Giroud pounced inside the box after the Dutch failed to clear a Dimitri Payet corner, before drilling a volley low into the corner.

– Dramatic finish –

The goal comes at a perfect time for France and Giroud, after the striker has lost his place in Arsenal’s starting line-up, 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 Dutch 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.

But any result other than a win would have been harsh on the French, 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 Portugal slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Bulgaria in Leiria.

SEE MORE: Schedule of international games on US TV and live streaming

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.

Bulgaria held on, with the help of goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov’s second-half save from Ronaldo, who also missed a spot-kick for Real Madrid on Sunday.

The Republic of Ireland put in the type of stubborn performance that typified their successful Euro qualifying campaign by edging past Switzerland 1-0 in Dublin.

The Irish, who took four points off world champions Germany in qualifying, took the lead in the second minute when Aston Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark headed in from a corner.

Switzerland dominated possession but could not break down Martin O’Neill’s hosts, who hung on for an impressive victory.

Slovakia, who will take on England, Russia and Wales in Group B at the Euros, played out a goalless draw with Latvia in Trnava.

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