In a night that paid tribute to Johan Cruyff, Netherlands lost 3-2 to France in the Amsterdam Arena.

neth franceIn the fourteenth minute the Amsterdam Arena, soon to be renamed after Johan Cruyff, burst into applause to honor the great Dutchman who sadly passed away through Cancer on Thursday.

The tribute was fitting for the legend, but Netherlands performance up to that point wasn’t, as the game was stopped on fourteen minutes with the Oranje already 2-0 down to France.┬áDanny Blind started with a 5-3-2 formation which was meant to contain France and hit on the counter, but the energetic attack of the French tore a tepid and uninspired Dutch side to shreds in the first half.

Antoine Griezmann brilliantly fired the French ahead early on with an excellent free kick before Olivier Giroud doubled the lead on 13 minutes when a corner wasn’t dealt with by a static defence.

Netherlands back five were all over the place and it should have been 3 or 4-0 before the break with Griezmann sending a free header over the bar, before he was denied from close range by Jasper Cillessen. Netherlands, who lost Wesley Sneijder early on through injury, barely troubled the French back four with Quincy Promes firing straight at Mandanda the only highlight.

The home crowd, who applauded ferociously during the tribute to Cruyff, showed their disapproval at the shocking display from their players with boos at half time, and Danny Blind rung the changes. Memphis Depay and Ibrahim Afellay came on to push Netherlands to a 4-3-3 and it made an instant impact in the second half.

Minutes after the break Jetro Willems was fouled on the left wing, and Memphis delivered a free kick which was netted by Luuk de Jong. Replay’s showed that the PSV attacker handled the ball into the net, but it stood.

The goal gave the Oranje confidence, and they came close to an equaliser twice through Davy Klaassen, who saw a header saved on the line before volleying wide. France remained dangerous on the break, and Dmitri Payet almost settled the game with a strike which came back off the post.

With five minutes to go the Arena erupted as Memphis found Afellay with a short corner and the midfielder arrowed a strike into the bottom corner to make it 2-2. However, France snatched victory a minute later as Anthony Martial found Blaise Matuidi in the box, and the PSG star fired past Cillessen at his near post to give the visitors a deserved victory.

In seven months Netherlands and France lock horns once again in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, and vast improvements are needed from Blind’s side if they are to have a chance of making the tournament in Russia.

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