PARIS (Reuters) – France striker Olivier Giroud ended a run of 10 international games without a goal by netting a stunning winner as the world champions claimed a deserved 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in their Nations League clash on Sunday.
The night started with a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise as France played their first home fixture since lifting the World Cup in July, and ended with a comfortable victory for the hosts at the Stade de France.
The excellent Kylian Mbappe set France on their way with a first-half opener, but forward Ryan Babel equalised for the visitors with their only meaningful shot on target.
Giroud produced a moment of magic with a superb volley 15 minutes from fulltime to seal the win, as France recorded a fifth successive victory over the Dutch.
France manager Didier Deschamps kept the same starting line-up that drew 0-0 draw with Germany on Thursday, a sign of his desire to cap France’s homecoming with a victory and keep the World Cup after-party in full swing.
Mbappe tested the reflexes of Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen early on, before the lively forward provided a tame finish from Antoine Griezmann’s pass.
The teenager, however, put his side in front after 13 minutes via a mistake from Dutch midfielder Quincy Promes.
His header went straight to Blaise Matuidi, whose cut-back provided a tap-in for a grateful Mbappe.
Griezmann was incisive with his passing and a superb defence-splitting ball was perfect for fullback Lucas Hernandez, who could only sky his shot well wide.
Cillessen then showed impeccable timing to save at the feet of a surging Mbappe just before the break, avoiding the kind of contact that could easily have resulted in a penalty.
After Georginio Wijnaldum had dragged a good opportunity wide, the Netherlands levelled on 66 minutes with their only meaningful shot on target as Babel bundled the ball in off his knee from a Kenny Tete cross following a swift break down the right wing.
It was Babel’s first goal in a competitive international since he netted on debut against Romania in a World Cup qualifier 13 years ago.
But Giroud ended his own barren run of games as he muscled ahead of Virgil van Dijk and produced a superb volley from Benjamin Mendy’s cross to take his international goal tally to 32, past the great Zinedine Zidane on France’s all-time scorers list.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)