Netherlands have to settle for draw with France after VAR rules out Simons strike

Kylian Mbappé sat proceedings out with his broken nose and France, positive but achingly profligate, showed how much they will need him back. The first goalless draw in this European Championship was not short of scoring opportunities and it must concern Didier Deschamps that, without his talisman, the favourites were ultimately blunt. They could even have lost to a bright Netherlands team if the largely English team of officials had not, via a VAR check extending for more than two and a half minutes, disallowed a potential winner from Xavi Simons in what was a wafer-thin call.

France knew there was little to be gained in risking Mbappé from the start, particularly in a format that serves up little jeopardy for the big hitters. Protective tricolore mask or not, a stray elbow to the face could bring potentially catastrophic consequences for their summer and that of the tournament’s biggest star. Mbappé had not engaged in contact training since departing the Austria game late on and the gamble of pitching him straight into what, on paper, was the group stage’s showpiece game was simply not on.

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