Many thanks to Lozil and MyGypsySpirit for allowing me to guestblog here and especially to share my thoughts on the Republic of Ireland’s Round of 16 match with hosts France. While the result was not what this Irish American would have wanted, it was a good and fair match on a beautiful day in Lyon.
France 2-1 Republic of Ireland June 26, 2016
Stadium: Stade de Lyon
Ireland : Randolph, Ward, Duffy (red card 68’), Keogh, Coleman, McClean (O’Shea, 71’), Hendrick, McCarthy (Hoolahan, 71’), Brady, Murphy (Walters, 67’) Long
France: Lloris, Evra, Koscielny, Rami, Sagna, Matuidi, Kante (Coman, 46’, Sissoko, 93’), Pogba, Payet, Giroud (Gignac, 71’) Griezmann
There was quite a bit of talk before the match regarding the measly ticket distribution to the Irish fans. In a stadium built for around 60,000, the Irish were only given 5,000. However, ESPN commentators mentioned the ingenuity of some Irish fans able to “infiltrate” which to be honest, is not at all surprising.
The first half started with a shock penalty for Ireland. Pogba collided with Shane Long in the box within the first minute of play and gave up a penalty which was converted by hero of the match against Italy, Robbie Brady. Three minutes up and the Irish lead against France.
That set the tone for the first half. While Ireland had the run of play for most of the half, it was clear that the French were not on their game. Silly fouls lead to some costly cards that will prevent some key players from moving on to the quarters. England and Iceland will clearly be happy not to see Kante and Rami.
Both keepers, Lloris and Randolph, had some excellent saves throughout the first half. The Irish midfield and defense did very good work making life difficult for Payet and Griezmann. Hendricks in particular had his hands full with Evra and Pogba. But as the end of the first half approached, the French started to show a bit of their true nature. Griezmann and Payet gave the Irish defense a few scares but the half ended with the Irish ahead.
The second half was really a different story. With some strong Irish play in the first few minutes of the half, particularly a McClean shot on goal that made Hugo Lloris make a pretty save, the French were ready to play ball. Both Payet and Matuidi gave Randolph a bit of bother and then in the span of three minutes, Antoine Griezmann dismissed the Irish fairy tale with two goals. The first was a beautiful header delivered by Sagna and the second was a great pass from Giroud which landed right at the feet of Griezmann.
To be fair, the rest of the match was a sign of Irish grit and defense against the French possession. This was made all the more clear when Giroud again found Griezmann and was taken down by Duffy just outside the box. Duffy was given a straight red as Greizmann was in a clear goal scoring position.
O’Shea came in for McClean to strengthen defense and Giroud was subbed off for Gignac. Gignac and Coman provided many chances and gave the Irish defense a run for their money. However, neither were able to score. In the end, the Irish fell to France 2-1 and the hosts go on to meet the winner of the England-Iceland match.
While I’m sorry to see the Irish go out, I’m pleased with the strong defense they gave in this match. Their fans have been a delight so far but the team themselves can go out with heads high.