Netherlands meet France at the Stade de France on Wednesday in the first international friendly of 2014.

  • By Michael Bell
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kuyt v franceThe match will give some of the Dutch players one of their final chances to impress boss Louis van Gaal as he looks to finalise his squad for the World Cup, which is now only four months away.

Van Gaal will use the match to have a look at some of Netherlands brightest talents, with Jean Paul Boetius, Quincy Promes, Davy Klaassen, and Karim Rekik all in line for their first caps.

Hamburg midfielder Rafael van der Vaart was a late call-up to the squad after Augsburg right back Paul Verhaegh was forced out with injury, while regular left winger Jeremain Lens is suspended. Robin van Persie, Kevin Strootman, and Arjen Robben are all set to start, while hugely exciting PSV winger Memphis Depay could also be involved from the beginning, having been in excellent form recently.

France also have two uncapped players in their squad with Real Sociedad attacker Antoine Griezmann, and PSG left back Lucas Digne receiving call-ups. Big names such as  Frank Ribery, Karim Benzema, Oliver Giroud, Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye are all in Didier Deschamps squad.

Potential line ups:

Netherlands- Cillessen, Janmaat, Veltman, Vlaar, Martins-Indi, Strootman, Blind, Sneijder, Depay, Robben, Van Persie.

France- Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Sakho,Varane, Cabaye, Pogba, Matuidi, Ribery, Valbuena, Benzema

Key match ups:

Ribery v Robben– The two Bayern Munich wingers are star men on for their club side, but have had a fiery relationship, and both will relish the opportunity to come up against each other. Set to be on the same wing it will be an interesting battle between two world class wingers

Veltman v Benzema– The Ajax defender is one of the rising stars of the Dutch defense, but can be prone to errors. Veltman will have to be at his attentive best to ensure Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who has been in great form this season, is kept quiet throughout.

Van Persie v Varane- Van Persie is struggling to find his form for Manchester United, but according to Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal he prefers playing for his country. The striker is one of the names already on the plane to Brazil, but will need to step up his game with Klaas jan Huntelaar breathing down his neck. Against France he will come up against one of the best young defenders in World Football, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane.

History:

Both countries first met way back in 1908 with the Dutch triumphing 4-1, and since then there has been a further 21 meetings, with Netherlands winning nine, France winning nine, and three draws.

Netherlands haven’t lost in their last three matches against the French, having beat them 3-2 in Euro 2000, drawn 0-0 in a friendly four years later, and the most recent meeting was the excellent 4-1 win at Euro 2008 thanks to goals from Dirk Kuyt, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder (All of whom remain in the Dutch squad).

Conclusion:

Netherlands are unbeaten in 17 games, having last tasted defeat in a 4-2 friendly against Belgium in Louis van Gaal’s first game back as coach. While the result in France will not affect the nations chance at the World Cup, Netherlands will gain huge confidence from heading to the tournament with their unbeaten record over the past year and a half intact.

The tie in France may be the biggest threat to that record, and it will be interesting too see how Netherlands defence can cope with Benzema, Ribery &co. After this game the Dutch have two further friendlies before the World Cup gets underway against Spain, but they are against Wales and Ecuador.

How ready are Louis van Gaal’s team to face Spain? we will find out in Paris on Wednesday.




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