Koeman demands focus, predicts Dutch improvement against France

Koeman feels his team can challenge France
Koeman feels his team can challenge FranceReuters
The will-he-won't-he saga around Kylian Mbappe (25) is far from the mind of Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman (61), who is concentrating on ensuring his team stay focused for the full 90 minutes of their Euro 2024 Group D match against France on Friday.

The build-up to the game at Leipzig Stadium has been dominated by the issue of whether France captain Mbappe will start after breaking his nose in their opening 1-0 win over Austria.

Mbappe terrorised the Dutch with four goals in two games against them in qualifying. Yet Koeman knows France have enough quality in their squad to cause problems whether Mbappe, who tested out a protective mask on Thursday, starts or not.

"France are such a strong team, that's even if he's not playing," the Dutch coach told reporters on Thursday.

"The substitute will be a great player as well. I can't really focus on this. All we can do is try to influence our team and to prepare ourselves as best as we can.

"Not everything depends on whether Mbappe is there or not. We know that he can be a game-changer. He had a big influence on the last two games."

Those qualifying defeats ensured the Dutch finished second in their group behind France, with Didier Deschamps' side winning 4-0 in Paris and 2-1 in Amsterdam.

Koeman, however, is confident his side have improved.

"We hope that we'll be able to prove tomorrow that we have improved," he said.

"It is different. Maybe because we've prepared well, we had the friendlies, we've had more time now to work on our tactics, our systems and we'll be a better team tomorrow against France."

The Dutch began their Euro 2024 campaign with a 2-1 win over Poland in which they created numerous chances but lacked a clinical edge until Wout Weghorst came off the bench and grabbed a late winner.

They conceded an early goal when they switched off at a corner and Koeman is keen that they avoid silly mistakes against France.

"What the lesson learned against Poland is that you need to play the high level for 90 minutes not just 60 minutes," he said.

"Be careful about where you lose the ball and in which parts of the pitch you really need to dare to play. To think about where you are in defence what's your position and what will happen if I lose the ball here. This is all very important."


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