New captain Kylian Mbappe was on target twice in Les Bleus’ first game since the heartbreak of losing the final on penalties to Argentina after a thrilling comeback in Qatar three months ago, with his side producing a devastating early 21-minute goal blitz against an injury-ravaged Dutch team in Paris to make an emphatic start on the road to Germany.
Antoine Griezmann swept home France’s quickest goal since 2006 after only one minute and 55 seconds having been teed up perfectly by Mbappe, swiftly putting to bed reports of any rift between the pair after Mbappe was recently appointed as his country’s latest skipper by head coach Didier Deschamps to replace the retired Hugo Lloris.
Lloris was honoured ahead of kick-off along with fellow international retirees Raphael Varane, Blaise Matuidi and Steve Mandanda, with Karim Benzema having reportedly turned down an invitation to the ceremony. There was also a minute’s applause to remember late France icon and scorer of the most goals ever at a single World Cup in Just Fontaine, who sadly died earlier this month at the age of 89.
Relentless Les Bleus were eager to pay tribute to one of their most famous players as they went 2-0 up inside just eight minutes, a dangerous free-kick from the pink-haired Griezmann bouncing in off Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano after Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen had been caught in no man’s land.
Two became three just 13 minutes later when Mbappe started an attack and raced into the box to collect Aurelien Tchouameni’s fine low pass via an expert dummy from Randal Kolo Muani, selected ahead of record scorer Olivier Giroud to lead the attack, then coolly wrong-footing Cillessen at his near post.
France had to wait a long time for their fourth, with substitute Moussa Diaby seeing an accomplished finish ruled out for offside before Mbappe completed his brace late on, weaving this way and that and sitting down both Jurrien Timber and Daley Blind - on for his 100th Netherlands cap that will quickly be forgotten - before masterfully picking out the bottom corner.
His 38th goal in only 67 caps saw him move clear of Ballon d’Or holder Benzema as France’s outright fifth-highest scorer of all time aged 24, with only Michel Platini, Griezmann, Thierry Henry and Giroud now sitting ahead of the Paris Saint-Germain superstar in the scoring charts.
A wretched opening to Ronald Koeman’s second reign as the Dutch national coach was completed in the final seconds, when Memphis Depay had a tame penalty thwarted by Lloris’ heir apparent Mike Maignan after Upamecano was unable to move his hand away from a Wout Weghorst header inside the box.
France will be bursting with confidence as they head to Dublin next to face the Republic of Ireland on Monday night, while the Netherlands - who were already beset by injuries before seeing five players withdraw with a virus on the eve of this game - will be heavy favourites to bounce back against Group B minnows Gibraltar in Rotterdam.