Netherlands head to Paris on Thursday for a critical World Cup qualifier against France. Can Oranje keep their slim hopes of automatically qualifying for Russia alive?

  • By Michael Bell
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Netherlands may have hammered Luxembourg 5-0 last time out, but Sweden’s shock 2-1 win over France has thrown a major spanner in their hopes of qualifying. Dick Advocaat’s side now sits third in the group, three points behind both France and Sweden with only four games remaining.

A defeat against France would leave Netherlands chances of topping the group in tatters, while their hopes of even reaching the tournament through playoffs would also be all but over should Sweden claim victory in Bulgaria.

Netherlands haven’t registered a victory in France since 1936, but captain Arjen Robben is confident that they can achieve a crucial three points. He said, “Of course, France have, in terms of quality, a really good team, but I don’t want to talk about them. I think we must not think that we are not as good, we must be convinced of our own qualities and believe that we can beat them.

“I’m always very positive. We can well say that it will be difficult because France have a better team, but if you think like that, then you might as well stay at home.

“We must go to Paris with conviction. It is a bit like the situation at the World Cup in 2014. If you believe in something and have the requisite ambition, you can go far.”

France are also heading into the game under pressure from the media after the defeat to Sweden knocked them off top spot. Coach Didier Deschamps, however, isn’t worried, “Why doubt?

“Twelve points remain to be distributed. First place remains accessible. It is therefore useless to sound the alarm bell.

“We are not in danger, even if our situation is inevitably less comfortable than it was before we played in Stockholm.”

Team News

The big story from Dick Advocaat’s squad selection was the call-up of Robin van Persie for the first time since 2015, but the striker is set to start the match on the bench with Vincent Janssen set to play up front.

According to AD, Feyenoord midfielder, Tonny Vilhena is set to start in a five man midfield, with Arjen Robben providing support to Janssen up front. Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Donny van de Beek could make their debuts from the bench.

Probable Netherlands line-up: Cillessen, Veltman, Blind, Hoedt, De Vrij, Strootman, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Vilhena, Robben, Janssen

Didier Deschamps has a squad packed full of talent to chose from with Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe just some of the names at his disposal. According to AD, Mbappe and Lacazette will start on the bench with Giroud preferred up front.

Probable France line-up: Lloris, Sidibe, Kurzawa, Umtiti, Koscielny, Kante, Pogba, Coman, Lamar, Griezmann, Giroud

Head to Head

France have come out on top in the last three meetings between the two nations, including a 1-0 win in Amsterdam last October. The 4-1 win at Euro 2008 was the last time Netherlands triumphed, while you would have to go back to 1936 to find the last victory for Oranje on French soil.

Overall record: Netherlands wins: 10, Draws: 3, France wins: 12


France 4/7 Draw 3/1 Netherlands 6/1

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