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Dublin: 11ยฐC Monday 26 October 2020


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Good afternoon everybody, you’re very welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of today’s historic semi-final between Ireland and Brazil.

Why is it historic? Well, Ireland have never actually made it to the final four of the Toulon Tournament before, with today’s game marking quite a significant step forward for Irish underage football, especially at U21 level.

This is the first edition of the competition in two decades that the Boys in Green have even qualified for, with Stephen Kenny’s men really beginning to build momentum in a new era for the Ireland U21s since the ex-Dundalk boss succeeded Noel King.

A bit of context — it isn’t the World Cup and it isn’t a European Championships, but the Toulon Tournament is still regarded as one of the most prestigious underage football competitions in the world.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us as a nation to go to this tournament and compete against these nations,” Ireland boss Kenny said speaking last month before flying to France.

Adam Idah celebrates scoring a goal with teammates Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The Toulon Tournament is hugely important with the gap between the U19s and U21s internationals being huge. It’s a huge step up for our players, good matches, and we want to give ourselves a chance.”

His side got off to the best possible start, beating China 4-1 thanks to goals from Zack Elbouzedi, Aaron Connolly and two penalties from Adam Idah. Next up, Kenny’s Kids were held 0-0 by pre-tournament favourites Mexico, before capping off Group C with a 1-0 defeat of Bahrain thanks to a Connor Ronan free-kick.

Ireland have topped their group and a result face Brazil today, who are fielding an U22 side in preparation for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. They have beaten Guatemala 4-0, France 4-0 and Qatar 5-0 leading up to today’s semi-final — scoring 14 and conceding none.

It’s a huge test for Ireland and for Stephen Kenny, who will succeed Mick McCarthy as senior boss in just 13 months’ time after Euro 2020. Kick-off at the Stade de Lattre-de-Tassigny is coming up in just over an hour’s time at 4.30pm, with today’s game live on FreeSports (Sky Channel 429).

Let’s get started with today’s team news…

TEAM NEWS: Stephen Kenny makes four changes from the side which beat Bahrain 1-0 on Sunday.

Sheffield United’s Stephen Mallon, who spent last season on loan with Australian side Central Coast Mariner, comes in for his first start in Toulon.

He replaces Waterford’s Zack Elbouzedi, who scored Ireland’s opening goal of the tournament against China last Monday.

Conor Masterson, Adam Idah and Conor Coventry all come back into the side too. Liam Scales, Josh Barrett and Jason Knight drop to the bench.

IRELAND: Kelleher, Mallon, O’Connor, Leahy, Masterson, O’Shea, Coventry, Molumby, Ronan, Connolly, Idah.

BRAZIL: Ivan, Emerson, Lyanco, Murilo Iago; Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique, Pedrinho; Paulinho, Antony, Matheus Cunha

Plenty of pre-game reading material ahead of kick-off in half an hour’s time:

Oh, this banter-filled ‘Team Mates’ video featuring Caoimhin Kelleher and Conor Masterson is a must-watch. There’s a proper bromance between the pair it seems. Expect one (or both) to a be brand ambassador for Barry’s Tea next season.

Source: FAI TV/YouTube

Lovely weather in Aubagne this time of year. Swimmer Alain Bernard, who has won two Olympic gold medals, one silver and one bronze, is one their proud sons. The Ireland team are getting their warm-ups in now.

Stephen Kenny was immensely proud of his young side after Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Bahrain booked today’s semi-final spot. 

His side have made history in France and have built a firm foundation ahead of important Euro 2021 qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden in September.

“We’re delighted to get seven points from the group,” Kenny said on Sunday. “We felt it was a difficult group, with China and Mexico putting out their Olympic qualifying teams, while Bahrain were somewhat of an unknown quantity.

“So it was a terrific achievement by the players. We don’t take it lightly, a lot of great Irish players played in this tournament over many years. This is the first time an Irish team has reach the semi-finals, and the players deserve huge credit.”

I think we’re all hoping for a repeat of this brilliant Liam Brady strike against Brazil way back in 1987. A quick reminder that today’s game is available to watch on the telly — Sky Channel 429.

Official confirmation that kick-off has been pushed forward by 10 minutes due to a penalty shoot-out materialising in today’s other semi-final between Japan and Mexico. Sit tight, we’ll be getting underway at 4.40pm instead.

A quick reminder of today’s teams. Brazil will be fielding an U22 side this afternoon in preparation for next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. They are defending Olympic champions, of course, after Neymar sealed gold on penalties against Germany in Rio. Proper revenge for that 7-1 massacre in 2014.

Japan are through! They beat Mexico 5-4 on spot-kicks to book their place in the 2019 Toulon Tournament final. Brazil or Ireland to face the winners on Saturday afternoon.

KICK-OFF: We’re underway in Aubagne for the first half!

2 mins — Brazil seeing plenty of the ball in these early moments, but have been forced to concede two throw-ins after some early pressure from Darragh Leahy and Conor Masterson. There’s a few dog walkers in the background. Nice day for it.


It’s a disastrous start for Ireland as Conor Masterson bundles into his marker following a low cross into the box. The ex-Liverpool man is shown a yellow card and Brazil have the chance to take an early lead.

4 mins — It’s missed! With a golden opportunity to take the lead inside the opening five minutes, Douglas Luiz strikes wide of the post. An awful, awful penalty. He sent Caoimhin Kelleher the wrong way and had plenty of the goal to aim at, but the striker missed the target entirely. A big let-off for Ireland.

5 mins — Another brilliant chance for Brazil straight afterwards. Cunha bears down on goal and has only Kelleher to beat, but he drags his shot wide. Two big chances in quick succession, but Ireland survive.

7 mins — Play has calmed down a little bit now after that chaotic start. Connor Ronan getting the ball down at his feet in midfield trying to bring Jayson Molumby into play and reach Adam Idah up top.

9 mins — RB Leipzig’s Matheus Cunha comes close at the far post, before Ireland fly down the other end. Aaron Connolly cuts inside onto his right boot and flashes a strong, curled effort flying towards the top corner. His shock takes a slight deflection and goes out for an Ireland corner.

Aaron Connolly Source: TGSPHOTO/Paul Dennis/INPHO

11 mins — The corner is easily cleared and once again Brazil dash forward with a rapid counter-attack. Antony and Paulinho sprinting left and right to evade their markers behind enemy lines.

13 mins — Stephen Kenny’s men don’t look too overwhelmed so far. Ronan and Molumby are looking strong in possession in the middle of the park, with Idah and Connolly both big physical presences up top. Holding their own at the moment against an elite opposition.


Brazil take the lead! Kenny’s side face an uphill battle now as Paulinho strikes from just inside the box to make it 1-0 with 15 minutes on the clock. He picks up the ball on the edge of the area and sees his low strike bobble up off the pitch and over the dive of Caomhin Kelleher. Very cruel on the Liverpool goalkeeper, who probably had that covered were it now for the playing surface.

17 mins — It was a fine low strike from Paulinho, give him credit. The Bayer Leverkusen striker hit it well, but subsequent replays show the ball did bounce up ever so slightly off the pitch, taking the ball over the dive of Kelleher and into the back of the net. Very frustrating for the Cork shot-stopper.

19 mins — Andre Jardine’s side really beginning to take control of proceedings now. Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique and Pedrinho dominating possession and stroking the ball left and right, to and fro with relative ease in midfield. It’s all very easy at the moment.

21 mins — There’s a strong heat out there, it must be said. High temperatures this afternoon approaching 22 degrees will not help those Irish players out there. The heat, combined with a lot of chasing after the ball, will inevitably drain energy levels.

24 mins — Very nearly a breakthrough for Adam Idah there. The Norwich teenager scored a brace of penalties in Ireland’s opening victory against China having also impressed in the recent Euro qualifier victory over Luxembourg in Dublin. Ireland will be heavily reliant on him if they are to turn things around.

Paulinho scores their first goal past Caoimhin Kelleher Source: TGSPHOTO/Paul Dennis/INPHO

26 mins — A moment which just about sums up Ireland’s frustrations so far: Darragh Leahy screams and hollers looking for Aaron Connolly to come short for a throw-in deep inside Brazil’s half. The Brighton striker comes to retrieve the ball, but it bobbles off his shin and back out of play. When your lucks not in, etc.

28 mins — Another let-off for Ireland there. Emerson sprints forward with an overlapping run and chips a dangerous cross right into the mix. Conor Masterson reads the danger, though, and gets his head to the ball first. An important interception from the former Lucan United defender.

30 mins — Ireland try and manoeuvre an attack piece of play out from the back. Bohemians’ Darragh Leahy does well to win the ball back at left back inside his own half, but his options are few and far between when he looks up. The Dubliner lumps the ball forward, Adam Idah chases, but the move comes to nothing.

32 mins — More promising from Ireland here now. Kenny has implemented an uncompromising passing style of play since taking over, and his side have persisted with that philosophy throughout this tournament. Connor Ronan and Conor Coventry pass the ball out from defence to midfield and into attack, but Idah’s final ball finds a man in yellow. Better, though.

Stephen Kenny Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

34 mins — Now there’s a stat: Brazil have reached the final of the Toulon Tournament on eight separate occasions, winning every single one. That’s right, a 100% record when it comes to the decider. Ireland, on the other hand, are playing in their first ever semi-final this afternoon. Different gravy altogether.

36 mins — Chance for Ireland from a dead ball situation. Connor Ronan chips an inviting free-kick into the box aimed at the back post. He is looking to pick out the run of Darragh Leahy, but the cross trickles wide.

38 mins — Out of nothing Brazil nearly double their advantage. Again it’s Paulinho bearing down on goal. He cuts inside onto his favoured right boot and swings a powerful effort aimed towards Kelleher’s bottom corner. It just skims wide of the post.

40 mins — Five minutes to go before half-time as Ireland try and carve out another half-chance. Stephen Mallon lobs a Hail Mary ball into the box looking to pick out the physical threat that Idah poses. But goalkeeper Ivan races from his line and catches with relative ease under little pressure.

Lee O'Connor Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

42 mins — Keith Andrews and the rest of the Ireland bench are up on their feet and shouting at the referee. Aaron Connolly was preparing to race into space on the counter but was hauled back cynically by Emerson. The defender knew his side were in danger against the run of play and seems content to take a yellow card. One for the team.

43 mins — Chance! Oooh that was so very nearly the equaliser for Ireland, goodness me. Connor Ronan takes possession a good 20 yards out from goal and lashes a brilliant strike on target. Brazilian goalkeeper Ivan is forced to back-peddle and tip the ball up over his crossbar. Brilliant strike and even better goalkeeping. Almost 1-1.

45 mins — Just stoppage time to go before half-time and this really has been a much-improved end to the half by Ireland. It was a rocky start conceding an early penalty and going behind with just 15 minutes on the clock. But Stephen Kenny’s side have battled back and look so much more reassured ahead of a massive second half.


There we are then, half-time. I don’t know about you, but that opening 45 minutes absolutely flew by. It’s well worth recognising Ireland’s achievement at the halfway stage. This is a Brazil side who will have Olympic gold medals on their mind this time next year and a nation which has won this competition eight times before.

Stephen Kenny’s side have held their own in patches, while also going large patches without the ball, forced to chase and chase in very hot conditions. It was a disastrous start after Conor Masteron gave away a penalty in the third minute.

Douglas Luiz passed up the opportunity, though, slamming his spot-kick dreadfully wide of the target. Brazil did break the deadlock, though, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Paulinho finding the back of the net with a fine low strike which was helped along thanks to a bobble courtesy of an uneven surface.

Connor Ronan almost grabbed a stunning equaliser just before the break and, it has to be said, Kenny’s side have been much more encouraging over the last 10 or 15 minutes. A big 45 minutes to come shortly!

Stephen Kenny Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


SECOND HALF: We’re back underway for another 45 minutes!

46 mins — One change for Brazil at the break as Guga replaces Emerson at right back. Aaron Connolly did seem to be getting the better of Emerson towards the end of the first half along the left wing. Ireland remain as they were.


Brazil double their lead! Disastrous start to the second half for Ireland as RB Leipzig’s Matheus Cunha makes it 2-0 with a low strike from inside the box which catches Caoimhin Kelleher completely wrong-footed. Good work by Paulinho to race into the box. He offloaded to Cunha, who slams the ball right into the bottom corner.

49 mins — Ireland started poorly in the first half and have done likewise in the second. No doubt Stephen Kenny will have had some strong, motivational words for his young players at the break. But now Brazil really do have one foot in the final. Ireland need to score the next goal or else they will be playing in Saturday’s third place play-off.

51 mins — Ireland starting to get the ball back down on the deck again. Kenny looks like he is preparing to make his first change of the evening, though. Norwich City’s Simon Power is being sent to warm up. Well, not that he’d need for much warming up in that weather to be fair.

53 mins — Yep, Simon Power makes his way onto the pitch to try and help turn this game around. With fresh legs badly needed out there, he replaces Stephen Mallon with a little over half an hour to go.

55 mins — A good bit better from Ireland since that second goal from Cunha flew in. Nice little passages of possession play between Ronan and Coventry, with Idah also dropping deep to get some touches.

Steven Mallon with Iago Source: TGSPHOTO/Paul Dennis/INPHO

57 mins — A second switch for Brazil as Wendel of Sporting Lisbon replaces Anthony. That centre back pairing of Dara O’Shea and Conor Masterson are both pushing up higher up the pitch as Ireland go in search of a way back into this game. Nothing is really coming off though. Plenty of nice little passages of play, but very little penetration for Idah and Connolly to test Ivan in the Brazilian goal.

59 mins — Skipper Douglas Luiz urging his side on as Brazil veer forward in search of a third. Paulinho has three goals to his name in the Toulon Tournament so far, but definitely looks like he fancies one or two more. He dashes into the box and drags his right leg back ready to pull the trigger, but Connor Coventry provides a crucial tackle to prevent the danger.

61 mins — Great save from Caoimhin Kellher to deny second half introduction Guga a third goal for Brazil. The left back twists and turns Darragh Leahy with some lovely, quick feet. Guga tees himself up for a shot and crashes a low strike on target, but the Liverpool goalkeeper reads it early and clears with his feet.

64 mins — A second change for Ireland as Connor Ronan makes way for Jack Taylor. Less than half an hour to go, but this isn’t looking to promising for Kenny’s men at the moment. Ireland really, really struggling to carve out any chances at all. It’s been a very quiet second half for Ivan in goal for Brazil, it has to be said.

67 mins — Close! Brazil are devastating in attack and nearly make it 3-0. The ball is fed back to Pedrinho and with the goal at his mercy he delivers a powerful strike. It seems destined for the back of the net, but Conor Coventry throws himself in the way heroically to deflect the ball over the crossbar. What a block.

Connor Ronan Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

69 mins — Jack Taylor receives a yellow card from the referee. Conor Masterson had brought Matheus Henrique down with a foul and Taylor seemed to kick the ball at the Brazilian midfielder while he fell to the floor.

71 mins — There’s no two ways about it, there really does just seem to be a big bridge in quality between the two sets of players out there. Each man in yellow seems just that bit taller, more powerful, quicker than their opponent in a green shirt. Ireland struggling in one on one battles all over the pitch.

73 mins — Keith Andrews deep in conversation with Stephen Kenny along the touchline. This game has just got away from their young side in this second half. It was a much-improved passage shortly before half-time. Had that Connor Ronan strike flew in to make it 1-1, God knows where this game could have went.

75 mins — Chance! A rare Irish shot on target in this second half from the right boot of Aaron Connolly almost makes it 2-1. The Brighton star pulls away from his marker and uses the time and space afforded to him to flash a brilliant effort on goal. Ivan is forced to dive to his right, and the Brazil goalkeeper manages to keep it out.

77 mins — Had that Connolly strike went in, it would have been a very, very interesting final 10 minutes. For all their dominance, you do feel that Brazil should be a bit further ahead. Ireland have done really well to stay within touching distance here.

79 mins — A third substitution for Ireland with a few minutes to go. Waterford’s Aaron Drinan comes on to replace Adam Idah up front. A frustrating evening for the Norwich man, who has had to work really hard against a pretty resolute Brazilian defence featuring Lyanco and Murilo in the middle.

81 mins — Almost a third for Brazil again, but Caoimhin Kelleher provides an excellent save to keep the scoreline down at 2-0. Guga has been a brilliant introduction since the break and he almost smashes a long-range effort into the top corner. Kelleher throws himself into the air and claws the ball out for a corner with an athletic stop.

Darragh Leahy with Antony Source: TGSPHOTO/Paul Dennis/INPHO

83 mins — One more switch for Ireland as Josh Barrett comes on in place of Aaron Connolly for the last few minutes here. Kenny’s side still pressing for a goal, with Lee O’Connor charging forward and pressing high up the pitch right to the very last second.

85 mins — Five minutes left to go but the result, sadly, seems all but inevitable here. Liverpool and Tottenham both showed up that miracle comebacks are possible and should never be ruled out, but this goose looks cooked.

87 mins — A final change for Brazil as goalscorer Paulinho departs the pitch to take the congratulations of his manager Andre Jardine and all his team-mates on the bench. He is replaced by Vital.

89 mins — It is set to be a fourth consecutive win for Brazil at the Toulon Tournament. So far their record stands at four games, four wins, four clean sheets, 16 goals scored and none conceded. Fairly impressive, you’ve got to admit.

Dara O'Shea Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

89 mins — Dara O’Shea and Conor Masterson stroking the ball back and forth at the back, persisting with that passing style which Stephen Kenny has stuck to through good times and bad. Just stoppage time to go now.

90 mins — Ireland almost grab a late consolation on the break, with Simon Power pulling away for a free header at the front post. His effort flies just wide, but it wouldn’t have counted anyway as the linesman raises his flag for offside. It’s just been that sort of an evening for Ireland.


It’s all over in Aubagne and Ireland are out of this year’s Toulon Tournament at the semi-final stage.

Stephen Kenny’s side can be very proud of how far they’ve come this summer, impressing with an attractive, passing style of play against some of the most impressive young sides in world football at the moment.

They just never really got going in this game, sadly. Conor Masterson gave away an early penalty with just three minutes on the clock and Ireland were handed a lifeline when Douglas Luiz scrambled his spot-kick well wide.

Brazil didn’t have to wait too long to break the deadlock though. Paulinho got his side up and running with a low effort which bobbled over the dive of Caoimhin Kelleher for 1-0 and Matheus Cunha sealed the deal two minutes after half-time with another precise low finish.

Plenty of positives for Ireland to take all things considered. Kenny’s side will now face Mexico in Saturday’s third place play-off, while Brazil passage through to face Japan in the showpiece.

Thanks a million for joining us for the ride this evening — you can read our full report from this evening’s game here. Cya soon!

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Aaron Gallagher


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