Hosts France advanced to the quarter finals of Euro 2016 after recovering from the loss of an early goal to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon.
Inside two minutes Ireland took the lead through Robbie Brady’s penalty, which was awarded after Paul Pogba bundled over Shane Long in the box.
Shaken by their inauspicious start, the French struggled to establish a foothold in the game and despite having chances to equalise in the first 45 minutes, could have fallen further behind before half time had goalkeeper Hugo Llrois not made a fine fingertip save from Daryl Murphy’s shot.
Aside from a James McClean cross early in the 52nd minute, Murphy’s effort was however to be the last time Ireland’s seriously troubled Llrois, as France assumed complete control of the game from the start of the second half.
An aspect of that dominance involved Patrice Evra & Bacary Sagna getting forward to supply quality balls into the Irish box, with France’s equaliser arriving after Sagna delivered a measured cross which Andre Greizmann powerfully headed beyond Darren Randolph.
Immediately after losing that goal, Ireland regained their composure and launched an attack which resulted in Steven Ward’s shot being deflected narrowly over by Laurent Koscielny. However referee Nicola Razzoli awarded a goal kick, which Llrois passed out to Adil Rami.
The Seville centre half sent a hopeful punt forward which Olivier Giroud headed into the path of Greizmann who finished brilliantly from 12 yards. France then threatened to overrun Ireland, as just a few minutes later Shane Duffy was sent off for bringing down Greizmann with the Atletico Madrid forward bearing down on the Irish goal.
Thereafter only a series of fine saves by Randolph prevented France from extending their lead, as Les Bleus won their first European Championship knock-out stage game since their extra time victory over Italy in the final of Euro 2000.
Captaining France in that game was their current manager Didier Deschamps, who will be without both
Rami and N’Golo Kante for the team’s quarter final, against either England or Iceland, after the duo picked up their second bookings of the tournament.
Whilst the pair’s ineligibility is a major blow to Deschamps, the 47-year-old manager has various options open to him to compensate for their absence. Available to cover for Rami is Eliaquim Mangala, whilst Deschamps could either directly replace Kante with Morgan Schneiderlin or Yohan Cabaye, or alternatively chose to drop Paul Pogba into a deeper midfield role alongside Blaise Matuidi and play Kinglsey Coman ahead of them, just as he opted to do in the second half against Ireland.
Particularly impressive during that were both Greizmann and Pogba, with the Juventus midfielder producing by far his best performance of the tournament. The 23-year-old midfield maestro made 66 more passes than any other player on the field and steadily improved as the game wore on, as did France as a team.
Therefore Les Bleus are steadily moving towards delivering their best form at Euro 2016, as they continue to admirably handle the expectancy and pressure which accompanies being one of the favourites to win a major international tournament which they are hosting.