Mbappe Watches and Kante Rules in the Tie Between France and the Netherlands

N'Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante (Credit: Getty Images)

Thursday’s masquerade gave way to Friday’s game. After Kylian Mbappe pretended that he was ready to compete in training the day before, France took the field without him, who remained on the bench absolutely ruled out, and this festive Euro Cup in which no match seems to have serious consequences gave rise to something Truly genuine. France and the Netherlands faced off with the spirit of the friends of Antoine Griezmann against the friends of Memphis Depay, compadres since they met at Barca, inseparable at Atletico, black palates of football who live with a playful spirit. Giving each other gifts. In Leipzig, they had a pleasant and professional match that started off vibrant and ended, at a rapid pace, as the first 0-0 of the tournament.

It rarely happens in these times of alienated footballers, desire for control, and sacrifices on the altar of automation. From time to time, the matches move towards scenarios where the players rule. It happened at the Red Bull Arena after an afternoon of showers. The air was charged with electricity and the aroma of wet earth, and the boys from France and the Netherlands took to the field without the pressure that usually pressures their clubs, coaches, and federations throughout the year. They had just won the first match of the group, they had 3 points, and that in this Folklore Euro Cup is equal to having more than half a guaranteed classification, so they approached the process with a hedonistic air. With responsibility, but without anguish. The guys from the factory took a break and went out to get some fresh air. Credit to Deschamps and Koeman, without a doubt, two old-fashioned guys who decompressed their concentration after a stressful season and provided them with a broad framework for action. During practically the entire game the players gave the impression of doing things according to their real knowledge and understanding, and this is a lot when Griezmann, Rabiot, and Kante are together on one side, and on the other Van Dijk and Depay together with Reinjders and Schouten, two new kids in the neighborhood.

Reinjders, who took Frenkie’s place, showed a display of maturity and harmony paired with his squire Schouten. The Milan midfielder helped Van Dijk, accelerated the maneuvers with one touch, anticipated the cuts, and launched the attacks in a display of qualities that if they did not prosper it was because the anxious Xavi Simons, the intermediary who leads Gakpo and Depay, was phagocytosed by N’Golo Kante. There are journalists’ footballers and footballers’ footballers, like this spirited midfielder who always appears in the perfect position as if moved by a chess genius on the imaginary game board. Kante’s sensitivity in his feet is underestimated, but the truth is that he knows how to do almost anything in both areas and in the middle. He is ubiquitous. He is generous. He is smart. He is fast on his legs and his cognitive activity takes him on his feet in situations where many of his teammates prefer to hide, lest the ball be stolen. His specialty is building dead-end hallways. He manufactures them to put unsuspecting rivals like Simons, Gakpo, or Depay himself in them. They all entered his bag and France lived safely. Tchouameni, Koundé, Saliba, and Upamecano just had to get on the bandwagon.

Crosses to Thuram, goal disallowed to Simons

The game started with rhythm and great rigor, the two teams narrowed the spaces, and possessions alternated with exhibition plays. Frimpong tested Maignan, to begin with, and then Rabiot invented a wall with Thuram to leave Griezmann alone, who reacted late to the definition. The first half was exhausted with France installed in the Dutch field. If Deschamps’ hand was manifested in anything, it was in the excess of centers. Most of them went in search of Thuram, almost like sending passes to nowhere. Van Dijk and De Vrijk gave him no respite.

After the hour, Gakpo enabled Depay, and Koundé gave him the meter he needed to finish. The goalkeeper’s clearance went to Simons, who scored the goal of his life and celebrated while the VAR ruled it out for offside by Dumfries. A five-minute drama unfolded on the judges’ screens. When the match resumed, Kante left Griezmann alone at the far post, after a play that brought together two triangles and a backheel – a healthy crowd – from Thuram. The ball ended up out.

With the Burgundian’s failure, the game went into limbo and the fans dispersed, leaving a moral winner on the field: N’Golo Kante. MVP again. He comes from the Arabian League, but in this Euro Cup, he is more than enough.

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