Netherlands vs France: How Gakpo and Dumfries can punish Euro 2024 powerhouse


Perhaps Kylian Mbappe will be there (in a mask), perhaps he won’t. The level of analysis over a broken nose has ventured into the insane, especially when you consider the fact there’s so much more to talk about when it comes to France and the Netherlands, who meet on Friday evening. 


Les Bleus were pushed right to their limit in game one, with Austria’s energetic high-pressing style testing both their quality, their physicality and their ability to continue to play their game under immense pressure. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised that in a game such as this, N’Golo Kante reigned supreme. 


The Dutch kicked off with a win too - a thrilling one over Poland last weekend, the nature of which surprised a few - as despite the injury-enforced absence of Frenkie de Jong, the Oranje purred on the ball and created chances aplenty. They racked up 44 touches in Poland’s box, the most of any team in round one, and deserved the fortunate nicks both their goalscoring strikes took. 


Now the two meet, and while France may be forced into a change up front if Mbappe can’t play, the Netherlands’ will benefit from a very well established dynamic that involves one flank bringing the other into play. 


Memphis Depay may be the first name you’re drawn to on the Dutch team sheet, while Xavi Simons’ pre-tournament hype was deafening at points, but it was Cody Gakpo who emerged as the key threat in this attack. He took more shots (5) and completed more dribbles (5) than anyone on the pitch, while also topping his team for touches in the attacking third (36) and supplying the joint-most crosses (5). A WhoScored rating of 8.88 was the best of all players in the first round of games. 


Netherlands vs France: How Gakpo and Dumfries can punish Euro 2024 powerhouse


Naturally, the goal he scored and the dribbles he completed stand out; he gave right wing-back Przemyslav Frankowski a torrid time - he attempted four tackles; not one was successful. But the crosses are interesting too, as the direction in which they’re aimed - straight at roaming right-back Denzel Dumfries’ head at the back post - brings another of the Netherlands’ key attackers into play. 


Four of Gakpo’s attempted crosses were towards Dumfries. Two of them found him. In those situations, Dumfries is an absolute menace, able to leverage his height and strength like a striker to shoot or nod the ball back across. It’s a simple, yet effective route to goal: Gakpo carries it forward, cuts in, fades a cross to the back post, Dumfries puts it into a central area and all hell breaks loose.  


It poses a very interesting conundrum for any full-back pairing they face, and on Friday that will be Theo Hernandez and Jules Kounde, who both played brilliantly in the opener against Austria and will need to show up again. 


Theo is a very adventurous, forward-thinking left-back whose game is based on lung-busting carries forward rather than defensive work. Kounde is the opposite on the right, a converted centre-back who is good moving forward but excels in his own third. 



Kounde against Gakpo is the first battle. How tightly will Kounde stick to his marker? How aggressive will he be in jostling with him? Will an early yellow card change the complexion of that duel? What can France do to prevent service to Gakpo, therefore protecting Kounde as much as possible? 


The second battle is Theo, trying to keep track of Dumfries’ ghosting back-post runs, attempting to obstruct his leaps and put him off balance, communicating with centre-back William Saliba constantly regarding his movements. 


It’s a fascinating double duel that will play a big part in shaping what is one of round two’s blockbuster games - and if the Netherlands get the better of it, it could well cause some reconsideration over how dangerous this Dutch team really is.

Netherlands vs France: How Gakpo and Dumfries can punish Euro 2024 powerhouse