France travelled to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium for their second Euro 2024 qualifier as Didier Deschamps made three changes to the team that hammered the Dutch 4-0. Benjamin Pavard (26), Eduardo Camavinga (20) and Olivier Giroud (36) came on for Jules Koundé (24), Aurélien Tchouaméni (23) and Kingsley Coman (26), with Randal Kolo Muani (24) positioned as a right-sided winger.
With Ireland, Les Bleus met a tougher resistance than they did on Friday. Still, they dominated proceedings and strung together coherent attacking moves in Ireland’s half. But the Boys in Green were perfectly set up defensively to overload their penalty box and cut passing lanes. However, France were let down by a lack of pace, inspiration and intensity with too many players loosing balls far too easily. The visitors’ best opportunity of the first half occurred after Kolo Muani rounded past Irish goalie Gavin Bazunu (21) before feeding Giroud, whose shot was blocked.
In the second half, an unlikely France hero eventually stepped up to break the deadlock. Returning right-back Pavard caught a loose pass from Josh Cullen (26) before lashing a right-footed screamer going in off the crossbar. Les Bleus upped the ante from then on and proceeded to keep the ball in Ireland’s half, with Konaté and Upamecano mastering the art of the high line.
Taking the exemple of Pavard, Moussa Diaby (23) and Adrien Rabiot (27) came close with long-range efforts, but Bazunu stepped up. Backed by their faithful Irish fans, the Boys in Green launched a late assault to salvage a draw. Mike Maignan came to the rescue with an extraordinary 90th-minute save from a Nathan Collins header. Eventually, France prevailed, with the help of their defensive-minded players.
In the driving seat in their Group B qualifiers, France will travel to Gibraltar and host Greece for the next international break, in June.
France players’ ratings
Mike Maignan, 7 – He had very little to do with Ireland not exactly set up to go for the win. Alert in the last ten minutes when Ireland push for the equaliser. Did a wonderful save from a Nathan Collins header. To his credit, he also tried to speed France’s plays up with his distribution. Magic Mike.
Benjamin Pavard, 7 – A surprise name in the starting line-up. The right-back seemed to need time before adjusting to a position he has not played in since November. Booked early on and sometimes not at ease when keeping up with Matt Doherty. He scored the much-needed opener with an impressive strike, rewarding his efforts when going forward.
Ibrahima Konaté, 6 – Not as comfortable in possession as his center-back partner. Still, the Liverpool man produced another assured display and kept Ferguson mostly at bay. The ice to Upemacano’s fire.
Dayot Upamecano, 7 – The Bayern Munich defender continues to impress. His ability to set the pace and gain yards with the ball at his feet works wonders, as shown by his long distance pass for Kolo Muani’s first opportunity. Near-flawless.
Théo Hernandez, 4 – He looked off the pace with so many unforced errors in both halves of the pitch. Chiedozie Ogbene often had the better of him.
Eduardo Camavinga, 6 – Called up as a left-back by Deschamps, the Real Madrid was given the defensive midfielder role. The former Rennes youth product kept things simple, but he could have taken more risks in possession.
Antoine Griezmann, 5 – Not as inspired as he was against The Netherlands. France’s vice-captain was let down by his decision-making and did not provide his usual creative spark. However, he showed typical agressiveness and drive to match those of the opponents.
Adrien Rabiot, 4 – A subdued display from the Juventus man, with lost balls aplenty and technical errors. He also needs to work his understanding with Hernandez on the left side.
Randal Kolo Muani, 4 – A quiet night for the Frankfurt forward. Bar his opportunity in the first ten minutes, he failed to pose a threat to the Boys in Green from the right wing. He returned as a center-forward when Giroud exited the pitch, to no avail.
Olivier Giroud, 4 – The Milan forward was a hard man to find, despite France overflowing Ireland’s penalty box with crosses. However, his aerial ability proved handy at the other side of the pitch. Was the first France player to be replaced, with Moussa Diaby coming on.
Kylian Mbappé, 3 – Ireland did a remarkable job at limiting his influence in their half. So much so that he often dropped deep in midfield to initiate plays and dictate the game, as the responsible skipper he now is. But this is not really what is expected of him.
Nathan Collins, 6 – The Wolves defender did nothing wrong tonight and produced a great defensive display, in his anticipation as well as his positioning, to smother the threat posed by Mbappé and Giroud.
Chiedozie Ogbene, 6 – Everytime he got hold of the ball in France’s half, the Rotherham United man was a menace to France’s backline. A lively outing.
Evan Ferguson, 3 – The 18-year-old had an almost impossible task ahead: thwart the Konaté – Upamecano partnership with his teammates sitting deep. Like Mbappé predicted in his press conference, we didn’t see much of him. Subbed off past the hour mark.
GFFN | Bastien Cheval