Photo on Flickr by Niklaus Koller

After a lifeless match against Romania,France faces The Netherlands' formidable Oranje. This evening's match will reveal the two teams' real pretentions for the tournament after their initial matches.

"Le Coq est mort" ? : Adventures with The A Team in the Berner Fanzone

FRANCE 24's Mark Owen and Willy Bracciano are covering the France -Netherlands game in Bern.

We arrived in Bern for the France - Netherlands game to be greeted by a sea of orange. The whole city has been taken over by the Dutch Crazy Gang. Singing constantly, dancing a frenetic pogo around the ornate fountains of the city centre, vollying an orange football precariously from group to group to group, even making the police who came to calm them down burst out laughing.

Imagine the scene - a drunk Dutch fan stands in a fountain, wearing only white national team shorts and for some reason an orange bra, orange sunglasses, dishing out beer glass-fulls fountain water at all who go near, thousands of fans egging him on. The police arrive, riot batons on hand, and ask him to get out. The orange bra man reacts by soaking them with water. The police ask again. They get another soaking from the orange bra man, who by now is taking on cult status. This is where I expected the mood to change. But no. The police officer smiled and stepped back out of range of the water. The police team was then spontaneously surrounded by pogo-ing Dutch fans chanting the theme tune to the Hollywood tv series The A Team (Agents Tout Risque).

I cracked up laughing. A stange kind of fans meets authority love-in. We - that's journalist video reporter Willy Bracciano and me Mark Owen presenter and journalist - were gathering material for our reports for the France 24 tv channels when we found another reason why the Dutch are so priceless.

Give us a song! Allez, chantez! - we said. A bunch of overexhuberant and beer-amplified men, wearing orange boilersuits, clogs, and orange wigs paused and burst into a chorus of a song they spontaneously made up.

- Le coq est mort, le coq est mort, le coq est mort le coq est mort. The Dutch. So clever and so vibrant. A foreign film crew asks for a song. They give the foreign crew something in French with a little bit of humour. Just like the fans the Dutch football team has really brought Euro 2008 to life.

The performance of the Dutch, beating Italy, was very much on the minds of all reporters gathered for the French news conference at Bern's Stade de Suisse Wankdorf, venue for the France - Holland showdown. Raymond Domenech, French national coach, is a master of the wry comment, the quick one-liner, but also of the non-answer.

- How important is Franck Ribery to your team? asks a German journalist desperately seeking a line for his report (Ribery plays at Bayern Munich, Germany's top club - apologies to fans of Munich 1860, St Pauli, und so weiter) - "He's one eleventh of the team that is on the pitch so in that he is very important."


I throw one at him about what the supporters can expect to see, like a better performance from the French players (the opening match against Romania was a disappointment, nil-nil draw) - They can expect to be outnumbered and outsung but I hope they will give us their support from their small section of the crowd. Willy Sagnol, of Bayern Munich and France, was adamant that the mood among the players was good, when I put the question to him.

Equally when I asked about the Dutch he was fullsome in his praise. But he said he believed the game would be different to the Italy match. Fingers crossed he's right. We did find a few French fans. One man had made the journey from Guadaloupe especially to support France - his personal sacrifice deserves much better than the lifeless, listless display against Romania. So here's hoping Le Coq est mort is little more than a drunken Dutch song."


                                                   Oranje fans in Bern

Video added by gorehouse on 10 June 

"The French team need to be on-the- ball"

Melvin Dia Moukori is one of our French observers in Paris


We’ll need a strong counter-attack. The whole team will need to be on-the-ball. The Netherlands has many advantages. They’re fast and they’re confident about this match, but at the same time it’s a very young team. Personally I see the French winning, but it’s anyone’s match. Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks the Netherlands will win.The French team has the means, but the real match will be between France and Italy."

"The outcome of this match seems very uncertain..."

Maxime Marchon is a politics student in Aix-en-Provence, France. He explains why he's worried about tonight's match.

It's very rare for me not to be able to give a prognostic. But the match between the Netherlands and Italy left me somewhat perplexed. I wasn't expecting such a strong show from the Dutch. Both technically and tactically, the oranje were incredible. That Cannavaro was missing can't explain and even less excuse the enormity of the Italians' defeat. Holland's one of the favourites this Euro and they've proved themselves nicely with the world champions.

For us in France, a false start has left us confused. Are they working towards a 2002 world cup rematch or do they need a bit of time to get going so that we can have a re-enactment of the 2006 world cup final? This is where the worry lies for the French. Having seen both scenarios acted out, I don't know which France to expect when the time comes.

If you think I'm not very optimistic; I think that's because of the pessimistic attitude of the French press about the team.

From another side, if I wanted to explain why France is going to win, I'd say that it's because, on paper, it's the best team in the championship. And also, of course, because I'm French.

One thing's sure - France doesn't have a very good hand to play. If they want to carry on believing they have a chance, they absolutely have to batter Holland tonight.

The country is desperate for it. So bring it on!!!"

'The French team is well-equipped for the tournament'

Bernard Bosquet, widely regarded as the best French defender of the 1960's, sent us his thoughts before this evening's match against The Netherlands. If Evra and Lassana Diarra are part of the starting line-up, it could change the French game. I'm finding it hard to believe that Evra isn't playing on the left-wing. He is a European and England champion with Manchester! And Sagnol is not in top form, he suffered from an injury all through his season with Bayern, he could barely play. And when we see various teams using quick wingers, we know it's a technique that works. Anyway I hope we don't see the team play the way did against Romania. Even without a real playmaker, they've a strong morale.

Another improvement is allowing Ribéry to play on the left-wing. He's ten times more comfortable playing on this side than on the right. In addition, he'll be well supported by Patrice Evra.

It's impossible to predict, in football anything can happen and that's what makes it so exciting. But the French team is well-equipped for the European Championship. It's the player's attitude that makes the difference. Fidgeting and panicking is of no use."