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Griezmann-inspired France shatter Ireland's Euros dream

The Boys in Green took on the tournament hosts in a historic clash in Lyon today.

Soccer Euro 2016 France Ireland Source: Michael Sohn

France 2
Ireland 1

Paul Fennessy reports from Parc Olympique Lyonnais

IRELAND’S EUROS DREAM is over after losing 2-1 to France in the last-16 clash in front of a packed and impassioned home crowd in Lyon this afternoon.

A valiant display from the Boys in Green saw them take an early lead, before two second-half opportunistic goals from man of the match Antoine Griezmann won it for France, as Shane Duffy’s sending off saw the away team reduced to 10 men.

Martin O’Neill’s men huffed and puffed, but the extra three days’ rest for their opponents ultimately told, as an exhausted-looking Irish side ran out of gas and bowed out of the tournament.

The Irish, fresh from a stunning 1-0 win over Italy, made no changes to their starting XI, while as expected, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and France’s other big name stars were included in their side.

A buoyant and largely French crowd belted out La Marseillaise before kick-off, but they were silenced moments later following some stunning early drama on a warm summer’s day in Lyon.

Southampton striker Shane Long was felled by Juventus star Paul Pogba, and — with Ireland not being awarded seemingly clear-cut penalties against both Begium and Italy — were finally given a spot-kick at this tournament.

Robbie Brady subsequently gave Ireland the lead with a penalty in off the post in the opening two minutes, as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris went the wrong way, sending the large pocket of Irish fans into raptures.

France fought back strongly after this early setback, however, as the Irish team were ominously pushed deep into their own half.

France v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Lyon Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Dimitri Payet’s free kick tested Darren Randolph, before Duffy did superbly to prevent Olivier Giroud getting on the end of Griezmann’s cross.

Griezmann was again involved in the 17th minute, as his flick-on was easily saved by Randolph.

Ireland reminded France of their threat after 21 minutes, as Hugo Lloris was forced to tip away Daryl Murphy’s half volley, before Hendrick’s follow up was collected more comfortably by the Spurs stopper.

By and large, however, France continued to look the more threatening side, as Randolph again was made to work by a Pogba free-kick.

The physicality of Murphy and Long was providing a nervy-looking French defence with plenty of headaches, though the penalty aside, both Irish players weren’t getting much change out of a strict referee.

As half-time approached, Ireland were beginning to gain the upperhand again — Brady whipped in a free-kick that Duffy narrowly failed to direct on target.

On the brink of the break, France went tantalisingly close, as first Payet and then Griezmann forced last-ditch blocks by Ward and Duffy respectively

Coach Didier Deschamps responded to a below-par first-half with a more attacking approach in the second, replacing defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante with 20-year-old winger Kingsley Coman.

In the 48th minute, France had their first big chance of the half, as Koscielny headed wide from a set piece that Pogba had flicked on.

However, the changes made the hosts look vulnerable on the counter-attack, and Ireland almost capitalised shortly after the break, as Lloris had to palm away a dangerous James McClean cross.

It was eye-of-a-needle stuff at times, as France struggled to find a way past a solid Irish rearguard, but they eventually unlocked the Boys in Green’s backline on 58 minutes.

Barcary Sagna was afforded too much room to cross as Griezmann headed past a despairing Randolph to send the vast majority of fans in the stadium into ecstasy.

Suddenly, Parc Olympique Lyonnais came alive with self-belief, and the sense of momentum enabled them to take the lead just three minutes later.

Giroud’s downward header found Griezmann, who again made no mistake with the finish to put his side ahead for the first time in the game.

France v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Lyon James McCarthy controls the ball during the round of 16 match at the Stade de Lyon. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ireland fans barely had time to take in the introduction of qualification hero Jon Walters in place of Murphy shortly thereafter, before further drama ensued.

Duffy was sent off, after taking down Griezmann, following another lay-off by the influential Giroud, with Ireland’s place in the competition looking more tenuous than ever as a result.

The dismissal forced Ireland into another tactical reshuffle. John O’Shea came on in place of McClean, while Wes Hoolahan took the place of James McCarthy.

Soccer Euro 2016 France Ireland France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris deflects a shot during the Euro 2016 round of 16 soccer match between France and Ireland. Source: Michael Sohn

Little changed in terms of the game’s dynamic, however.

France almost sealed the deal in the 77th minute, as substitute André-Pierre Gignac rattled the crossbar with an audacious effort from the edge of the area.

Deschamps’ men continued to press for a third, as an exhausted Ireland looked out of gas. Matuidi’s effort from out wide was narrowly palmed away by Randolph, with the visitors struggling to curb the relentless pressure on their goal.

The hosts looked well in control of proceedings, and Gignac missed two chances in quick succession to extend their advantage, tapping Matuidi’s cross just wide, before scuffing a shot on the edge of the area after being set up by Coman.

And while the Irish threatened to rally late on, the clear-cut chance they needed never quite came their way on an energy-sapping afternoon in Lyon.

Overall, the Boys in Green could have few complaints, as the better team went through, but the performance was typically brave and spirited from Martin O’Neill’s side, as they justifiably were warmly applauded off the field by the vociferous away support after the final whistle.

FRANCE: Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Rami, Evra, Kante (Coman, Sissoko), Griezmann, Payet, Matuidi, Pogba, Giroud (Gignac).

IRELAND: Randolph; Coleman, Keogh, Duffy (sent off), Ward; McCarthy (Hoolahan), Hendrick, Brady; Long, McClean (O’Shea); Murphy (Walters).

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)

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Paul Fennessy

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