Battling Ireland denied draw by inspired Mike Maignan as France take points in Euro qualifier
Nathan Collins could have done no more: with Ireland pushing hard for a late equaliser, he made a mighty connection with a header from a 90th minute corner but was denied by an incredible save from France keeper Mike Maignan.
The AC Milan goalie, who is attempting to make the France number one jersey his own after the international retirement of Hugo Lloris, leapt across the goalline and clawed the ball to safety.
A passionate Dublin crowd gave Stephen Kenny’s side full backing and they made a strong France side work hard for their 0-1 win.
Only once did concentration slip for the home side, when they gave the ball away under pressure from the pressing French forwards on 50 minutes. Josh Cullen's ill-advised pass across the edge of his own box failed to find a green jersey, Benjamin Pavard pounced, struck a fierce shot, and Gavin Bazunu was powerless to prevent the ball finding the back of the net.
Despite Ireland's game efforts, Pavard's 50th-minute contribution was enough to secure a 1-0 Group B victory to go with Friday's 4-0 rout of the Netherlands.
The world's third-ranked side were made to work hard for the points by an Ireland team sitting 48th in FIFA's table two years to the day since they suffered the humiliation of a 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat by Luxembourg at the Aviva Stadium.
France dominated possession for much of the game, but were unable to trouble keeper Bazunu until Cullen's rare slip let Pavard in as Kenny's men, who handled superstar Kylian Mbappe well, defended diligently and tried to hit them on the break.
Ireland's fate in this campaign was never likely to be decided on their results against France, and their trip to Greece in June before Gibraltar head for the Aviva will be far more indicative, but Kenny will take heart from the way his young team committed to his game-plan in the face of the sternest of tests.
With wide frontmen Chiedozie Ogbene and Jason Knight dropping in when they were out of possession, the home side were compact, although they were breached with nine minutes gone when Randal Kolo Muani was played in over the top and rounded Bazunu, only for his back-heeled pass to Olivier Giroud as he was driven wide to be cut out by Collins.
The Republic were squeezed ever deeper as France turned the screw with Antoine Griezmann orchestrating, and it took a good 16th-minute block by John Egan to keep Mbappe at bay.
With what little share of the ball they were afforded, Ireland did their best to fulfil Kenny's instructions to take risks without ever really threatening to pierce the French defence, but they needed Bazunu to spring from his line to prevent any damage after Griezmann's 24th-minute corner had ricocheted across his six-yard box.
Griezmann instinctively stabbed wide as he attempted to turn Theo Hernandez's 32nd-minute drive past Bazunu and then missed the target with a header from Pavard's cross as French frustration mounted.
In the event, a team which had scored three times inside the opening 21 minutes against the Dutch left the pitch at half-time locked in a stalemate having been unable to break down a stubborn and disciplined Irish rearguard.
However, the home side faltered within five minutes of the restart to hand the visitors the lead.
Cullen intercepted Adrien Rabiot's misplaced pass on the edge of his own penalty area, but then played the ball square, where Pavard pounced before smashing a shot past the helpless Bazunu off the underside of the crossbar.
It might have been 2-0 had Evan Ferguson, in the defensive wall, not got his head to Griezmann's 55th-minute free-kick, although the Atletico Madrid star turned up on the edge of his box to block Knight's goal-bound strike after Ogbene had burst clear down the right three minutes later.
Moussa Diaby tested Bazunu's resolve with a swerving 69th-minute effort and the Southampton keeper repelled Rabiot's attempt from distance six minutes later, but Molumby and substitutes James McClean and Alan Browne all went close to an equaliser in a tense conclusion.
But for Maignan, who had seconds earlier clawed the ball from underneath his crossbar, Collins would have snatched a famous draw at the death.
The two moments of genuine quality from Pavard and Maignan impressed, cruelly, on the Irish the rigours of competing against the very best. Collins sank to his knees at the final whistle, and France had done enough.
Ireland 0 France 1, as it happened
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Match report is above. Hard lines Ireland, denied by a great strike and an even better save.
Martin O'Neill analysis
🗣️ "Maybe throw caution to the wind a wee bit earlier than that there."@moneill31 reacts at full-time at Ireland's 1-0 loss to France at the Aviva#EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/FX41l8Ak8G
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) March 27, 2023
Chiedozie Ogbene had a great game and gets the MotM "The atmosphere says it all. There are positives to take and we had enough chances to take a point, at least. I'm devastated for the guys, we gave everything. I said it before, we trained to win this game and were unfortunate not to get a result. We should be very proud, we matched one of the best teams in the world and the future is bright."
Full time: Ireland 0 France 1
Harsh for the Ireland guys, who look hurt and demoralised. They certainly gave France a run for their money but ultimately the difference was the one mistake Ireland really made - giving the ball away at the back. That led to a thunderous hit from Pavard. Ireland gave it a right old go at the end and were then denied by two excellent saves.
90 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
And an even better save there from Maignan. A corner, a fantastic bullet of a header for Nathan Collins... oh that is a simply magnificent stop. Claws it away. He had no right to.
If you get a chance, do seek out the highlights from this. Those two saves were world class.
89 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Corner Ireland. A bullet header from a French defender Jules Kounde very nearly gives us one of the all time great own goals. What was he thinking? French goalie saves the day.
A seriously good bit of keeping from Maignan
87 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Mbappe on the break and tries a half chance volley that dips over his shoulder.
But Ireland are soon back up the business end of the pitch.
86 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Molumby off for Obafemi.
Again Ireland! The French are rooted to the spot in defence as ball is half cleared.... it drops to Browne.... he hits a bobbling scuffed effort on the diagonal through the area. It is begging for someone to turn it in... but it remains untouched and the French can breathe a sigh of relief. Those five subs have certainly given the Irish some fresh legs.
84 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
French keeper has come out waving at his maman. Manages to just about flap it clear. Jammy.
83 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
This is the time Ireland. They've got the French on the ropes here. McClean gets through and is denied from a narrow angle. Corner.
82 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Ireland are on the charge. Good pressure, Ogbene again the man making things happen. Shot! Molumby. Denied. C'mon Ireland.
80 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Triple change for the BiG.
James McClean, Mikey Johnston and Alan Browne on.
Dara O'Shea, Matt Doherty and Jason Knight off.
75 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Molumby is into the book for rugby tackling a runner. Eduardo Camavinga.
These Irish players are blowing hard now.
70 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
It all opens up for Rabiot - far too much space here... he drives forward and hits a hard shot. Bazunu gets down well.
70 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Giroud substituted for Diabya. Idah came on for Ferguson.
Armadillos down their trousers
Stephen Kenny referred to Ireland v France as "fire vs ice". pic.twitter.com/zbGASbmOfk
— John Brewin (@JohnBrewin_) March 27, 2023
65 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Freekick for France, but first some subs. Ferguson off.
France play it into the area. Mbappe has a little lie down on the grass. Nothing doing from the ref.
63 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Ireland have their tails up but France starting to make their class show. Muani receives it on the edge of the box. Doherty catches him from behind and is booked.
Not much more than an hour gone but some of these Irish guys look fully cooked.
59 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Ogbene down the right, finds Jason Knight on the left. Takes a touch. Blocked by Konate.
56 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Ogbene having a great game.
53 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Josh Egan fouls Ol Giroud and France have a free-kick. Mbappe? Griez? The latter, but it is deflected over. France turning the screw a bit here as they look for the killer second.
50 mins: Ireland 0 France 1
Fair play to Ireland, they do not sulk. Here they come, on the front foot now. A set piece, chance to deliver the ball in. But not the right delivery.
GOAL! Ireland 0 France 1 (Pavard 50)
Oh dear. The French looked like they had come out hot and Ireland were under some pressure. The French press (a method of coffee preparation innit?) is strong and effective. Cullen has given it away on the edge of the box. Straight to Pavard, who strides forward and wallops a terrific shot. No chance for Gavin B in nets.
47 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
I suspect that France have had le roquet at half time. They look like they mean business.
Second half coming up
Ferguson will kick it off for Ireland.
Solid so far
Dunne: "It's not as if the French have had great chances and missed them. They have been restricted to half chances by Ireland, shooting from distance. Ireland not giving anything away and Kenny will be delighted."
Some half time viewing.
From this day in 1991, England vs Ireland at Wembley, and a period of play which perfectly sums up Jack Charlton’s mantra.
With the home side penned in their own box, here’s two relentless minutes of long ball, pressing, direct football at its very best.
Put ‘em under pressure. pic.twitter.com/jbajDHx2ys
— Stu’s Football Flashbacks (@stusfootyflash) March 27, 2023
Mbappe in the ear of the ref at the half
Half time: Ireland 0 France 0
That's a damn fine first half from the Irish guys. Solid in defence, throwing everything into every tackle, crowd playing a full part.
42 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
French keeper is rooted to the spot as that corner comes in. But Ireland have made a foul.
41 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Ogbene with some good pressure on Rabiot, and gets given a corner (incorrectly - Ogbene got the last touch).
40 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Good spell Ireland! They've got a freekick from deep that the French deal with questionably. Corner. Cleared by France.
38 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
One man winning his individual battle is Ogbene. Hernandez hauls him down. Ireland deliver a freekick in... French cannot clear... drops for O'Shea! No, cannot make a decent contact.
36 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Game opening up for the French... Ireland stretched. Pavard down the right, near post cross to Griezmann. Weak header, albeit a hard angle, for the man with the pink hair.
30 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Pavard delivers a ball in and Dara O'Shea does the needful with his heid. Solid stuff from Ireland.
Kenny must be pretty pleased so far. Not been many chances. Every Ireland tackle cheered.
25 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Doherty is putting in a shift up that left flank. Gets forward well here and it's a beefy tackle by Muani to stop him.
23 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Giroud with the header! It pings off not one but two Irishmen, Coleman the last, and for a horrible second it looked like that was the sad, slow train to OG Town.
22 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Mbappe is about to deliver a dangerous cross but Coleman gets a foot in. Well played. France corner.
21 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Jason Knight delivers a ball in. O'Shea gets up for the header but the French gather the ball and break. Danger here - Rabiot.... oooh that's a heroic tackle from Molumby.
19 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Josh Cullen with the ball in, Egan the target. Cleared. A shout for handball vs Mulani but nah.
18 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Wee moment for Ireland.
Hernandez pushed Ogbene. Ireland can stick it in the mixer.
12 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
That's some game defending from Doherty, who has got his hands full with Kolo Muani, the French right wing. Lad has got some WHEELS and he goes round Doherty on the outside, but a good recovery and the cross is cleared.
7 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
First moment of real alarm for Ireland as the French dance through, there is a cut back and it's all hands to the pump to hack the ball clear. Muani the man causing all the havoc.
Kolo Muani got Gavin Bazunu but had to take it wide. Tried a backheel to Olivier Giroud but Nathan Collins just - just - got a bit on it.
4 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
This is a good start from Ireland, they are having plenty of the ball and are using it calmly and purposefully.
1 mins: Ireland 0 France 0
Narrow-ish midfield three for Ireland and the wider men are quite well tucked in as well.
Ireland make six changes
Ireland's talented youngster Ferguson up front, according to the graphic, up front on his own. That's a serious test against Upamecano and Konate.
Mbappe the man who now captains the side after the international retirement of Hugo Lloris.
Fans are well up for it
Two absolute bangers. What a great pair of countries. The atmosphere, I have to say, looks bloody brilliant for a Tuesday night Euro qualifier.
Michael D Higgins is in attendance.
Sell out at the Aviva
Josh Cullen: "it does not come much bigger. We saw France's recent game... But we have had a good build up. They have players with ability and talent that can play in different positions but we are looking forward to playing against them and we will embrace the chance to test ourselves. We have had success against the so-called bigger nations over recent years."
with some good punditry about how the Irish can try and counter press the French... hard assignment is his conclusion. You shut down Mpabbe, and that means space for Griezmann.
Richard Dunne: "Ah, we're not interested in France - this is about what Ireland can do."
This match is on
Viaplay, which is a streaming service that was originally from Sweden.
As of 2021, Viaplay was made available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and Poland but, randomly enough, started to get a few people from further afield interested, because it offers a lot of Nordic Noir dramas (!)
It's parent company Viaplay Group has a good smattering of rights to minor leagues or lesser sports. You can watch National Hockey League (NHL) and MMA. The group has acquired the UK and Ireland sport streamer Premier Sports, which boasts has content such as La Liga, the United Rugby Championship and Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL).
Martin O'Neill is in the studio. Gary Breen and Rob Daley on the mikes.
Rep of Ireland: Bazunu, Collins, Egan, O'Shea, Coleman, Molumby, Cullen, Doherty, Knight, Ogbene, Ferguson. Subs: Hendrick, Smallbone, Idah, Obafemi, Kelleher, Johnston, Omobamidele, McClean, Browne, Sykes, McGrath, Travers.
France: Maignan, Pavard, Konate, Upamecano, Hernandez, Camavinga, Rabiot, Muani, Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud. Subs: Areola, Todibo, Tchouameni, Samba, Youssouf Fofana, Veretout, Kephren Thuram, Marcus Thuram, Coman, Disasi, Kounde, Diaby.
Referee: Artur Soraes Dias (Portugal)
Ooh ah Paul McGrath
We will get to the team news about an hour or so before kick off, which is at 1945. In the meantime I urge you to have a read of this interview done by Telegraph man Matt Law of the mighty Paul McGrath. Got some excellent lines in it about Big Jack, among others.
“Jack Charlton called me James for three to four years and, like the fool I am, I just answered to it. I don’t know if he was messing or something, but Jack had all sorts of tricks to keep us on our toes and he got us to places I never dreamed of getting to."
An evening with Paul McGrath: Being known as 'God', joy at Aston Villa and Fergie offering me £100,000 to quit football
and welcome to the Thierry Henry Memorial Encounter in which the Boys in Green hope to right the historic wrong done to them by the handballing, sneaky Arsenal great and put one over on mighty France in Dublin.
Stephen Kenny has told his Republic of Ireland players not to be afraid to take risks as they attempt to upset the odds and beat France in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.
Didier Deschamps' men arrived in Dublin basking in the triumph of Friday's 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands.
Despite the scale of the task ahead of Ireland, manager Kenny has vowed to continue to play the kind of expansive football he has tried to instil during his time at the helm, even if that means taking a gamble at times.
He said: "We should continue to take risks, not waver in any way from that. That's important, that's what the team is built on and that's critical that we do that.
"But we must make provisions for any counter-attacks that they have, have balance and cover. That's what we must have.
"The crowd... it's an electric night, they don't need a rallying call from me, they understand the traditions of Ireland and France, the connection with the players and the supporters, the connection.
"You can feel it growing, it's very powerful. The crowd will really get behind the team, it will be a special occasion, a huge challenge, there's no doubt about that.
"We want to carry a threat, for sure. Obviously we have ways of doing that. Listen, it's a big challenge. We know that France are an outstanding team and we're going to have to raise our level again to cause problems."
The history between the two countries includes the night at the Stade de France in November 2009 when Thierry Henry's handball in the build-up to William Gallas' equaliser was not spotted by referee Martin Hansson and his assistants, an incident which cost Ireland their chance of making it to the World Cup finals in South Africa.
Much water has passed under the bridge in the intervening years, with a French side which scraped past Giovanni Trapattoni's men in Paris having scaled new heights under Deschamps.
If much of the focus this time around has been on the threat posed by Kylian Mbappe, Republic midfielder Josh Cullen will find himself at close quarters with playmaker Antoine Griezmann and that is a challenge he is relishing.
The Burnley player said: "I can't give him enough compliments or speak highly enough of him. He is an unbelievable player over a number of years for club and country.
"I have a lot of respect for him but tomorrow night once kick-off comes, that goes out the window. We are there to do a job on him and the rest of the team to try and get the result.
"A great team with great players, but we are in a good place ourselves and are looking forward to trying to make it a special night and pull off a special result."