Some Nations League

Who have said that Nations League was boring ? There are plenty of interesting matchs ! This week I have selected one of them : Holland vs France. I must talk about the first defeat of France since World title against a reviving Dutch team that qualified for playoffs in June 2019 (with England, Portugal and Switzerland).

On this article, I used the expected goals (expG) that I have been defined on the previous article. Based on the xG plot for both teams I will try to explain the outcome of the match.

Just to remind, France needed a draw to win this group and be qualified for the playoffs of Nations League.

Ronald Koeman decided to play with his 4-2-3-1 formation animated by the young Frenkie de Jong that you must have heard about this year if you follow european football. France has some important players missing such as Paul Pogba and Samuel Umtiti replaced by Steven N’Zonzi and Presnel Kimpembe. Didier Deschamps opted for 4-3-3 with Olivier Giroud as striker and Kylian Mbappe on the left which is quite surprising because in my opinion Mbappe would have had better opportunities playing on the right against Daley Blind. But I think that Deschamp placed Griezmann on the right to try to inhibit de Jong with the help of Kante, an import piece of the Oranjes success.

So what happened ? The following graph represents the xG curves for both France and Holland.

xG Plot

During the first half, both teams were pretty even in terms of Expected Goals but Holland managed to score at the 44′ : after a cross by De Jong, N’Zonzi misses the ball which lands at Babel foot. His shot is pushed away by Lloris but Wijnaldum is here to put the ball in the net : 1-0 for the home team.

Everyone was expecting a reaction from the World Champions on the second half. France started to press Holland a bit higher but it clearly didn’t work, the Oranjes have had many opportunities to score their second goal but Lloris stopped them with some beautiful saves. At the same time France was very passive : Netherlands limited the spaces to contain Mbappe. Furthermore, Giroud seemed isolated, he touched the ball 20 times in 64 minutes and only 5 times in the Dutch 30 meters.

At the 64′, Deschamps introduced Sissoko and Dembele for Giroud and Matuidi to disruptive the Dutch defense. France played in 4-4-2 formation with Mbappe and Griezmann at the top with Dembele and Sissoko on the wings. It didn’t work with only two shots for the French team while Holland had more space to counterattack but Hugo Lloris managed to hold them.

France was quitte lucky to only lose 1-0 on the stoppage-time but the stupid foul from Sissoko gave Depay the opportunity to score the deserved second goal with a rude panenka.

The match ended with a logical 2-0 defeat for France and the deserved 3 points for Netherland which only needs a draw next match against Germany to win the group.

Some statistics of the match :
  • Frenkie de Jong touched the ball 112 times during the match with 93 % passes accuracy and one key pass. And he is the one offering the penalty at the 95′.

  • N’Golo Kante lost possession 18 times.

  • Jasper Cillessen touched more balls (41) than Giroud (20), Mbappe (38) or Griezmann (37).