Contrasting moods in the respective camps as France prepare to face Holland in a crucial Group C qualifier in Berne.
While Dutch coach Marco van Basten was playing down expectations following the stunning 3-0 victory over Italy on Monday, his opposite number Raymond Domenech was fighting a losing battle trying to convince French supporters that better things lay ahead for his side
Van Basten, a European Championship winner in 1988, is looking to become the first man to clinch the title as player and coach, but despite the victory over Italy, he is refusing to get carried away.
“We played well against Italy but you don’t win the tournament after one match,” Van Basten said. “Instead of thinking already about the quarter-finals, we must get our feet back on the ground and start all over again against France, who are a very strong, experienced team.”
“If one team has to attack it’s France,” van Basten said. “We’ve already won a game so the pressure is on them.”
The Dutch coach is expected to bring in the fit-again Arjen Robben at the expense of Dirk Kuyt.
“Robben is ready to face France,” confirmed Van Basten. “It is not easy bringing him back into a winning team but it is a luxury problem to have.”
Rob van Persie has also shaken off a thigh problem but striker Klas-Jan Huntelaar (calf) and Mario Melchiot (pelvis) are set to miss out.
France are expected to make at least one change from the side that faced Romania, although there could be several more as Domenech contemplates altering his formation.
Thierry Henry, receovered from a sciatica problem, is expected to return to lead the attack, and there may be additional changes in personnel, with Sidney Govou tipped to come in on the right, enabling Franck Ribery to play more centrally in a 4-2-3-1 formation. There may also be a recall for Patrick Vieira who is fit after recovering from injury. Eric Abidal and Willy Sagnol are also under threat as Domenech looks for more mobility from his full-backs.
“We know what we have to do and we’ll try our best to get the three points,” Domenech said. “Personally, I’m hoping for a sparkling French performance, but unfortunately I can’t predict anything. We build our side around a solid defence and the Dutch have outstanding attackers, so it should be a good, exciting match.”
Similarities have been drawn with France’s 2006 World Cup campaign – when they opened with a draw against Switzerland before reaching the final – and Domenech is convinced his team will again improve as the competition progresses.
“Feeling that danger and fear is important for top-level sportsmen,” argued Domenech, who would not reveal whether captain Patrick Vieira has recovered from his thigh injury. “It was always going to be a struggle and hopefully the situation will bring the best out of the players.”