LAUSANNE, Switzerland:It was supposed to be vice versa. The Netherlands should have been in trouble by now and France hoping to qualify for the quarterfinals with a game to spare.
Instead, a stunning 3-0 win by the Dutch over Italy and a miserly scoreless draw by Les Bleus against outsider Romania has totally turned the tables in Group C.
Even worse, instead of the usually quarrelsome Dutch, it is France which has a team dispute ahead of its most important game in two years.
Veteran defender William Gallas questioned the tactics of coach Raymond Domenech, instead arguing France needs to "play fast, move more. There is something that didn't work."
It was the last thing Domenech needed _ questions from within his own team, while he still is pondering how to counter the sparkling Dutch.
"I'm hesitating about four positions," he said.
Hardly the talk of a confident coach who led his team to the final of the World Cup two years ago. Especially with the veteran players eager to discuss with him how to play.
The Dutch had this discussion early this spring, switching from the traditional 4-3-3 to the experimental 4-2-3-1 which paid huge dividends against Italy. It made coach Marco van Basten look like a genius.
Despite the euphoria moments after the Italy game, soon one feeling united all: Nothing has been achieved yet.
"Don't think we have become favorites after one game," Van Basten said.
Yet, the Dutch lead the championship's toughest group with three points, ahead of France and Romania with one each and Italy with none. Italy plays Romania just ahead of the France-Netherlands clash.
"It will be extremely difficult to play in the same vein as against Italy. Other team, other players, different style," Van Basten said.
One thing will suit the Dutch just fine _ the French have to make play since a draw could well not be good enough for them to advance.
"It's more difficult when you are dictating the play, as you can be caught on the break," Domenech said.
Against Italy, the Dutch already proved they are the masters of the counterattack, scoring two on smooth passing combinations and speed. It could become vital since the French defense has not become faster with age.
The French should be so lucky mercurial Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben will still be out with a groin injury. His fellow winger, Arsenal's Robin van Persie, could be in the starting lineup though, after the aftermath of a thigh strain reduced him to second-half substitute against Italy.
The Dutch were always known to be strong on offense, it was their defense, lacking any big name, which surprised against the Italians. It is a daunting prospect for Domenech.
"I have known what the Dutch can do for a long time. I know what they are capable of. When they get going, it's impressive," Domenech said. "When they play quick one-touch football they are an impressive team."
Domenech's doubts are partly caused by lingering injuries to some of France's biggest stars of the golden age, when it won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
Star forward Thierry Henry has been benched with a thigh strain and midfield mainstay Patrick Vieira has been recovering from a left thigh tear.
Eespcially Henry's scoring class has been missed. In the last six matches, France has scored only twice from open play. Against Romania, Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema made little impact.
"We can score at any moment," Domenech said. "We just haven't found the moment yet."