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France expects to show attacking flair against Netherlands at Euro 2008

France expects to show attacking flair against Netherlands at Euro 2008

France is counting on an attacking Netherlands team to help spark its offense on Friday at the European Championship.
France created few chances in Monday's 0-0 draw against Romania, and blamed it on the fact the deep and compact Romanian defense, thus negating France's preference for hurting teams with speedy passes and counterattacks.
The free-flowing Dutch crushed Italy 3-0 in Group C _ the toughest group of the tournament _ and the French are expecting Marco Van Basten and his team to leave more space at the back than Romania did.
"I do not think the Dutch will defend like the Romanians," France defender Willy Sagnol said. "Although it won't be any easier, at least it will better suit the way we play."
France, which traditionally starts slowly, needs to beat either the Netherlands or Italy to have a realistic chance of reaching the quarterfinals at its fourth straight European Championship.
Despite a lackluster performance against Romania, the French remain upbeat that playing against an attacking team like the Netherlands is exactly what can make them respond.
"Sometimes it's easier to play against great teams," France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan said. "At least you get into the game straight away. If the Dutch attack a bit more, not like the Romanians, then that is better for us."
France defender William Gallas is optimistic that the Dutch style could play into France's hands.
"It will help us to play on the counterattack. We may have more room, knowing that we have very quick strikers," Gallas said Tuesday. "The fact that the Dutch like to play football means they may leave more space at the back."
The French attack has resembled a damp firework recently, unable to get off the ground and fizzling out quickly. Then team has only scored four times in the past six games, and only two of those have come from open play.
But at the other end, goalkeeper Gregory Coupet and the French back four are once again becoming a formidable unit. Despite its struggle in scoring goals, France keeps them out with remarkable ease.
France has now gone five games without conceding a goal and has allowed only six in the past 19 games. In coach Raymond Domenech's 52 games in charge since taking over nearly four years ago, France's defense has been breached only 23 times _ a remarkable statistic at any level, let alone international level.
"There's nothing to fear," France midfielder Samir Nasri said. "Once more, we are well organized."
With the defense functioning well, it's now high time the forwards followed suit. Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has not scored in 23 games _ stretching back to Feb. 2 and a goal against Portsmouth _ and Lyon's Karim Benzema is having a poor spell with only one goal in his last eight matches.
Not conceding is one thing, but France needs to win now, and Domenech insists that Netherlands and Italy will be wary of facing the French.
However, France no longer has the menacing allure of old, and primarily because it struggles so badly to score. Throughout European qualifying this was the case, and none more so against Georgia on June 6, 2007, when France had more than 20 attempts on goal and scored only once.
"When the team in front of you is well grouped, sometimes you have to be patient," France defender Eric Abidal said.
Against Romania, the French looked ponderous, slow, and lacking confidence. There was no Patrick Vieira to shake the players up, and no Thierry Henry to pressure the opposing defense with his devastating runs.
"We were not able to free ourselves completely," Domenech said. "Now we have to get our energy and our strength back for the Netherlands match."
Domenech is sounding exactly like he did at the 2006 World Cup where, after a dour opening game, the criticism mounted. He withstood the storm and led France all the way to the final.
"We knew this group would be complicated, and that the teams would be solid and well organized," Domenech said. "We still have two matches to go. We know this group will be tight until the end."
With Vieira and Henry possibly returning in time to face the Dutch, it may be unwise to bet against a Domenech repeat.
"Everyone knows Patrick and what he can bring to the team. We hope he's 100 percent," Gallas said. "It's true that Patrick likes to go forward and help the forwards."


Updated : 2021-05-19 08:47 GMT+08:00