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France flurry too much for Dutch

France 4-1 Netherlands
First-half goals from Gaël Kakuta and Cédric Bakambu paved the way for a convincing opening Group A success for the finals hosts in Caen.

France flurry too much for Dutch
France flurry too much for Dutch ©UEFA.com

France were rewarded for a vibrant opening 45 minutes as the UEFA European Under-19 Championship hosts started Group A by emphatically defeating the Netherlands in Caen.

With a squad largely made up of players who reached the U17 final two years ago and in front of new senior national coach Laurent Blanc, the hosts turned in a scintillating first-half display, solo strikes from Gaël Kakuta and Cédric Bakambu earning a two-goal cushion at the interval. Jerson Cabral pulled one back with a deflected free-kick early in the second period, yet France held firm and made the game safe thanks to a Bruno Martins Indi own goal and Bakambu's second in added time.

France were quickly into their stride in their first competitive U19 match since last year's semi-finals, Jeroen Zoet diving to his left to keep out Antoine Griezmann's low drive in the ninth minute before Erik Schouten cleared another Griezmann attempt off the line from the resulting corner. The breakthrough was not long delayed, however, Kakuta picking up possession midway inside the Netherlands half, skipping past Imad Najah and shooting low into the net.

It could have been 2-0 when Najah was penalised for tripping Francis Coquelin but Jeroen Zoet dived to his left to keep out Clément Grenier's low spot-kick, Griezmann heading against the outside of the post from the corner that followed. Should there have been any danger of home complacency, Rick van Haaren offered a reminder of the Dutch threat with a free-kick that came back off the post, and France duly made their position more comfortable before half-time. Again it was an individual effort, Bakambu turning Najah just inside the Netherlands half and holding off Schouten to shoot under Zoet.

The interval served to halt the hosts' momentum, however, and the Netherlands halved the deficit ten minutes into the second period, Cabral's free-kick deflecting off Bakambu and leaving Abdoulaye Diallo helpless. The goalkeeper kept out another Van Haaren effort to preserve his side's lead, but six minutes from time Martins Indi inadvertently restored the home side's two-goal buffer. A win that delighted more than 11,000 spectators was completed in the final seconds when Bakambu headed in after some classy wing play from Alexandre Lacazette.