Stephen Kenny determined to stay on front foot against France
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 ahead of Monday night’s game at the Aviva Stadium still 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.”