Soccer-Mbappe or not, Dutch still expect full French force

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group D - Austria v France - Dusseldorf Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany - June 17, 2024 France players pose for a team group photo before the match REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Kylian Mbappe’s potential absence from France's next game at the European Championship comes as no relief to their opponents, the Netherlands, who reckon the French will still present a formidable threat with or without their leading striker.

Mbappe’s nose was broken in the latter stages of Monday’s win over Austria in Duesseldorf and it is not yet clear whether the France captain will be able to play against the Dutch in Leipzig on Friday.

Mbappe terrorised them in a qualifying campaign which had the two countries in the same group, scoring twice in a 4-0 win in Paris and then netting both goals in a 2-1 victory in the return in Amsterdam last October.

“It does not matter if he is there or not. They have a lot of other good forwards and besides them a really good team. But we are not scared of anyone so if he is there or not, it doesn’t make any difference,” said goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen at a Tuesday press conference.

The 21-year-old made his debut last October in the home loss to the French, beaten by two brilliantly instinctive finishes from Mbappe.

According to Verbruggen, the Dutch have been more concerned about the fact the last two goals they have conceded came from corners and have spent time since Sunday’s 2-1 win over Poland in their opening game working on tightening up at set pieces.

The Dutch went behind early in the Group D clash in Hamburg to Adam Buksa’s header from a corner, after conceding a similar goal to German striker Niclas Fuellkrug in a friendly in Frankfurt in March. That was the last goal they let in before arriving at the European Championship.

"We’ve had plenty of time in the hotel to talk it over, and that we’ve done, but we shouldn't make too big a deal of it, because we also successfully defended a lot of corners” Verbruggen said.

“I think we defended enough well," he said of the victory against Poland, which the Dutch secured late in the game before Verbruggen was forced to make two key stops to preserve their lead.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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