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Dublin: 3°C Monday 25 January 2021
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Three debuts made as Ireland go down to Les Bleus at rain-soaked Stade de France

Goals from Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir were enough to hand a dominant French side victory in Paris tonight.

Jon Walters, Blaise Matuidi and Declan Rice.
Jon Walters, Blaise Matuidi and Declan Rice.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

France 2
Republic of Ireland 0

Ben Blake reports from the Stade de France

IRELAND WERE COMPLETELY outclassed by a World Cup-bound France in the pouring Paris rain tonight.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring at a near-capacity Stade de France and Nabil Fekir doubled their advantage after a goalkeeping error from Colin Doyle.

In truth, the scoreline could easily have been a considerably larger but Didier Deschamps’ side were guilty of some wasteful finishing.

One of the few positives saw Shamrock Rovers attacker Graham Burke become the first League of Ireland-based player to earn a senior cap for the Boys in Green since Cork City’s Joe Gamble in 2007.

Graham Burke replaces Callum O’Dowda to make his full international debut Graham Burke replaces Callum O'Dowda. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The French, readying themselves for the finals in Russia, left household names such as Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris and N’Golo Kante on the bench but still managed to put out a team that would be the envy of most nations.

Martin O’Neill was robbed of a number of regulars due to injuries and involvement in the Championship play-off, and went with as strong a side possible from the players available to him.

Doyle may have been the most experienced goalkeeper in the current squad, but the Cork man was appearing for just the third time for Ireland. Seamus Coleman captained the side and there was a debut for Blackburn Rovers defender Derrick Williams after his involvement in Scott Brown’s testimonial eight days ago.

Having looked assured against Turkey in March, 19-year-old Declan Rice was given another chance to impress — getting the nod in defensive midfield in a 4-1-4-1.

James McClean, Alan Browne, Callum O’Dowda and Jon Walters were tasked with supporting striker Shane Long, while League of Ireland duo Burke and Shane Supple were named among the 13 substitutes.

The Ireland team stand for the national anthems The Ireland team line up for the national anthems. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Just moments after kick-off, McClean was caught in possession by Djibril Sidibe, who stormed forward and picked out Kylian Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain star curled just wide on this occasion, however.

The home side, cheered on by their vocal supporters, immediately began to take control and when Giroud laid off to Mbappe, the exciting teenager shot high and wide.

McClean picked up the first yellow card of the night when he chopped down Matuidi on the edge of the box, and Lyon’s Nabil Fekir got the set-piece up and over the wall, but the accuracy wasn’t sufficient.

France’s full-backs were happy to bomb on at every opportunity and Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy forced Doyle into a parried save on 25 minutes.

Mbappe looked a real threat throughout the opening half and shifted the ball to make a yard for himself before drilling low for Doyle to push around the post. The resulting corner was only half-cleared and Giroud glanced wide when the ball came back in.

Ireland were hanging on at this point and Corentin Tolisso came close next — clipping the upright with his effort from 25 yards.

Five minutes before the break, Les Bleus finally broke the deadlock. Giroud’s header from the corner was initially kept out by Coleman, but a goal-line scramble ensued and the Chelsea striker followed up to eventually poke in from close range.

And one was soon two. Fekir drove at goal from outside the box, Doyle misjudged his block and sent the ball up in the air — only for it to loop beyond the dismayed goalkeeper.

In the last action of the half, Shane Duffy troubled French keeper Steve Mandanda in the French goal and won his side a corner. Unfortunately, Long couldn’t direct his headed effort on target when the delivery came in.

France Ireland Soccer Kylian Mbappe skips past Kevin Long. Source: Thibault Camus

Doyle went some way to redeeming himself with a solid stop from Giroud at the beginning of the second period, and Browne then came close to slicing a clearance into his own net.

Preston North End’s Player of the Year was largely ineffective and came off on 59 minutes to be replaced by Harry Arter. It was part of a double change with David Meyler introduced for Walters as O’Neill attempted to inject some much-needed energy to the midfield.

Mbappe, the star of the show, had the ball in the back of the net but was ruled offside. When he tried to tee up Giroud instead of shooting with the next opportunity, it looked like he may not get the goal his performance deserved.

Burke was brought on for O’Dowda with 20 minutes on the clock as the weather continued to deteriorate.

There was still time for Doyle to pull off one more save from Griezmann and substitute Shaun Williams — one of three Irish debutants on the night — then forced Mandanda into a stop before Bulgarian referee Georgi Kavakov blew up.

FRANCE: Steve Mandanda; Djibril Sidibe (Benjamin Pavard 82), Adil Rami, Samuel Umtiti (Presnel Kimpembe 63), Benjamin Mendy (Lucas Hernandez 64); Corentin Tolisso (Paul Pogba 77), Steven N’Zonzi, Blaise Matuidi (c); Kylian Mbappe (Ousmane Dembele 77), Olivier Giroud, Nabil Fekir (Antoine Griezmann 63).

IRELAND: Colin Doyle; Seamus Coleman (c), Kevin Long (Shaun Williams 79), Shane Duffy, Derrick Williams (Matt Doherty 82); Alan Browne (Harry Arter 59), Declan Rice, Callum O’Dowda (Graham Burke 70), James McClean, Jon Walters (David Meyler 59); Shane Long (Alan Judge 70).

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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