Euro 2024: the Blues hope for a revived Mbappé to qualify against the Netherlands

The thing did not escape Didier Deschamps, Kylian Mbappé “is going through a period that he has not often experienced”

Euro 2024: the Blues hope for a revived Mbappé to qualify against the Netherlands

The thing did not escape Didier Deschamps, Kylian Mbappé “is going through a period that he has not often experienced”. The captain of the French men's football team has just gone four matches with his club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) without scoring and his lackluster performances on the pitch are far from the level to which he is accustomed. Consequences of his summer preparation disrupted by the standoff which opposed him to the management of PSG around the extension of his contract? Following the ankle injury which forced him to leave the pitch after half an hour of play during the Ligue 1 “classic” against Olympique de Marseille on September 24? Difficult to be certain.

As the Blues travel to the Netherlands, Friday October 13 (8:45 p.m.), for their sixth qualifying match for Euro 2024, the coach hopes that his number 10 “regains his effectiveness”. But Didier Deschamps is not worried about the “desire” of his star striker and his “competitive state of mind”. “I know him well enough, he cannot be satisfied with what he is doing [these last few weeks],” insisted the Bayonnais on Monday in Clairefontaine (Yvelines). On the eve of the match, Aurélien Tchouaméni was keen to brush aside any doubts about his teammate: “We all know the player he is. He showed during training that he is at a very high level, so we are counting on him. »

If Mbappé's down period does not worry more than that, it is also because the situation in which the French team finds itself at the dawn of the duel against the Oranje is very favorable. The Tricolores alone occupy the lead in Group B (15 points) after five victories in five matches, eleven goals scored and zero conceded. Since the period October 2006-September 2007, this is the first time that the Blues have kept a clean sheet in five consecutive competitive matches (excluding friendly matches).

Thanks to this flawless performance, the French can validate their ticket for Euro 2024 (June 14 to July 14) from this Friday, in the event of success on the pitch of the Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam – a parity score would be enough for them also to be on the trip to Germany next summer, if Greece, which faces Ireland at the same time, loses in Dublin.

A precious number 10

During their first confrontation, on March 24, the French swept the Dutch (4-0) at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis). Certainly the Oranje did not arrive in the best mood, deprived of several key players, injured or victims of a virus in the days preceding the meeting. The return does not look any better for the locals, who will have to deal with numerous absences, notably those of Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo, their two best attackers, and their midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

However, there is no question of giving in to triumphalism on the French side. Because beyond a surprisingly silent Kylian Mbappé in front of the cages – he scored twice against the Netherlands last spring – Didier Deschamps must do without several cards in defense. William Saliba, Jules Koundé and Dayot Upamecano withdrew, before Axel Disasi, called in for reinforcements, also threw in the towel. “These are the imponderables, the hazards, and as is often the case when there are problems that add up, it’s in the same sector,” admitted the coach. Jean-Clair Todibo, Malo Gusto and Castello Lukeba, newbies or almost to the A, were called up to compensate for the absences. “It’s not ideal, I prefer to have everyone available, with automation and guidelines. It will be less the case there, but it also leaves the opportunity to see other players,” Deschamps said positively.

The Blues also suffered a defeat, in a friendly, against Germany (2-1), on September 12, even though they had not lost – nor conceded a goal – since the start of the calendar year. At Signal Iduna Park, in Dortmund (North Rhine-Westphalia), against a Nationalmannschaft although announced to be in agony, the Tricolores delivered a very dull copy. That evening, Kylian Mbappé was rested and, at the final whistle, a statistic reminded us how precious the number 10 is. The Blues have not won any of the last four matches in which he was not a starter (1-1 against Croatia and Austria in the Nations League in June 2022; 0-1 against Tunisia during the World Cup in November 2022; and against the Germans).

The 24-year-old striker “has a role to play in the France team,” Didier Deschamps bluntly recognizes. If he regains his "effectiveness" - according to the coach's wishes - and the net, against the Netherlands, Mbappé, currently fifth top scorer in the history of the selection (40 goals in 71 caps), could equal Michel Platini (41 goals in 72 caps) in the annals of French football. And who knows, maybe even surpass it.