Netherlands battle to a scoreless draw with France after VAR rules out Simons goal

June 21 – It wasn’t a classic but it was certainly an entertaining and full blooded encounter as the two big dogs in Group D, France and the Netherlands, squared off in Leipzig to share the points in a 0-0 draw.

The Dutch will feel aggrieved that Xavi Simons strike from outside the box was ruled out by VAR, but relieved that they withstood France’s attack for the crucial point that virtually guarantees the top two a spot in the next round.

All the talk before the match had been about the condition of Kylian Mbappe’s nose and whether he would play. In the end he remained on the bench as his team controlled the bulk of possession but failed to make it count.

Without Mbappe they are a very less potent force, but this was a much better performance than their opener against Austria which they squeaked through 1-0 after an Austrian own goal.

The game started at pace with both sides looking hungry for goals. In the fourth minute Anton Griezman tested Dutch keeper Bart Verburggen with a shot from outside the box that he palmed over.

Jeremie Frimpong shoots under pressure from William Saliba

On eight minutes Memphis Depay called for a penalty as he was wrestled over in the box. It set the tone for a half that at times was physically uncompromising as both teams played at pace.

On 13 minutes France should have been a goal up. With both Adrien Rabiot and Greizman behind the Dutch defence, 3m out, they somehow contrived to miss as Rabiot poked the ball just behind Greizman rather than firing in.

A minute later Greizman, captain for the night, scooped the ball left footed over the corner of the goal.

At the other end Cody Gapko forced a save from Mike Maignan low to his left.

It was end to end. Thuram broke the Dutch offside line but fired his shot over, while the Dutch counter attacks failed to find the killer ball in the final third.

With France slowly gaining the ascendancy, Virgil van Dyke brought the constantly threatening Ousmane Dembele down on the edge of the box, 23m out. Greizman fired the his free kick into the wall and out for a corner that was wasted again as it hit the first line of Dutch defence.

At half time neither team had a goal to show for all their huffing and puffing.

The tempo of the second half matched the first, and so did the number of failed final balls into the danger areas.

Jerdy Schouten and Aurelien Tchouameni battled for control of the midfield

France had marginally more control of the possession, building from deep and in particular looking to use the blistering pace of Dembele on the right.

The Dutch relied on their three and four-man counter-attacks looking to force a French mistake.

When Dembele fouled Xavi 25m out it looked like they had found an opening but Depay hit his free kick into the wall.

France regrouped and surged back towards the Dutch goal. On 56 minutes Ousmane’s cross was met by Robiot but he couldn’t keep his shot down. On the hour Thuram fired wide from the edge of the box.

Just after the hour mark another Dembele cross from the right was met by Aurelien Tchouameni but headed over.

If you don’t take your chances you leave the game open for the opposition and on 67 minutes the Dutch thought they had the lead.

The ball came out to Xavi Simons on the edge of the box who fired the ball back in past Maignan, only for VAR to rule that Denzel Dumfries had interfered with the goalkeeper in an offside position.

It would have been a goal against the run of play as France continued to build longer spells of possession in the Dutch half but without really pressurising Verbruggen.

In the battle of Didier Deschamps vs Ronald Koeman they both played their subs bench – Mbappe staying firmly rooted. Not even supersub Wout Weghorst, the last minute hero of the victory against Poland, could turn the tide.

Five minutes of added time ticked through with the Dutch happy to soak up whatever France had.

Both teams have four points going into the final round. Three points ahead of Austria who impressed again in their win over Poland who are the first team who can’t progress to the round of 16.

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