Dutch in full f light against France
BERN, Switzerland •
France stood on the brink of elimination yesterday after the Netherlands maintained its dream start with a 4-1 win over the 2000 champions here to book its place in the quarterfinals.
Goals from Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder and second-half substitutes Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben knocked the stuffing out of France and left the Oranje army marching on to join Portugal and Croatia in the last eight.
For France, this defeat, coming on top of its opening draw with Romania, meant it now must beat world champions Italy in its final Group C clash.
With just one point, the French not only need to beat the Azzurri, but also pray the Dutch can beat Romania, who are on two points, also on Tuesday.
“As long as our destiny is in our own hands, we can go through. We must not give in. We must play a high-level match we are capable of against the Italians,” said France coach Raymond Domenech, who wielded the axe on the side that failed to fire in the goal-less draw with Romania.
He notably brought back Thierry Henry, who at least netted a consolation.
“It’s a shame,” Henry said. “At 2-1, we could have given them cause to doubt, but they got their third right from the restart. Now we have to go out and beat Italy.”
In contrast to Domenech, his Dutch counterpart Marco van Basten was a picture of contentment, the former Dutch great saying: “We can only be happy after first beating the world champions 3-0 and France 4-1.
“We were a little lucky today, we made goals at the right time. I want to congratulate our defence and the whole team for their healthy spirit.
“To be No. 1 in the group is very positive for us.”
Aside from the inclusion of Henry, who was fully recovered from a thigh problem that kept him out of Monday’s drab opener, Domenech also introduced Sidney Govou and Patrice Evra. But it was the Dutch who took a ninth-minute lead, Kuyt heading in Rafael van der Vaart’s corner from the left.
In the 59th minute, Robben raced down the left wing to cross for van Persie, whose shot slid over the line despite Coupet getting a hand to it.
Henry replied in the 71st minute, but Robben made it 3-1 and Sneijder rounded off the night, flashing in the fourth in injury time.