5 talking points ahead of the Republic of Ireland's clash with France
Published 25/06/2016 | 14:56
The Republic of Ireland's reward for their heroics against Italy was a showcase Euro 2016 clash with hosts France.
On Sunday, the two sides will go head-to-head for the first time since THAT Thierry Henry-inspired World Cup play-off game in November 2009. Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the main talking points.
STICK OR TWIST?
Manager Martin O'Neill's decision to replace John O'Shea, Ciaran Clark, Glenn Whelan and Wes Hoolahan with Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, James McClean and Daryl Murphy for the Italy game was a bold one, but one which paid dividends as Ireland produced their best display of the tournament to date with Hoolahan coming off the bench to inspire a late victory. O'Neill may be forced into one change with full-back Stephen Ward struggling for fitness, while Jonathan Walters' return to training could give him another decision to make.
Shay Given, Robbie Keane and O'Shea have amassed a staggering 389 caps between them, but none was involved against Italy on a night when the baton was effectively passed on to a new generation of Irish stars. Seamus Coleman, Duffy, James McCarthy, Robbie Brady and Shane Long are the men around whom O'Neill will build his team for the new qualifying campaign, but in the meantime, they will take on responsibility for a nation's hopes this weekend.
FRIEND OR FOE?
The Ireland team and their fans have been welcomed to France with open arms with the players' pluck on the pitch and the supporters' penchant for a party off it having endeared them to their hosts. But that will all go out of the window in Lyon on Sunday - for 90, or perhaps even 120 minutes, at least - as the local favourites attempt to secure a quarter-final berth.
Dimitri Payet has been one of the stars of the show so far and his late goals have proved crucial to France's mission. Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph will implore his defenders not to let the West Ham star have a sight of goal anywhere within 35 yards of him, left foot or right foot, and conceding cheap free-kicks is simply not an option.
Ireland took Lille by storm in midweek as the green shirts packed into the Stade Pierre Mauroy and almost lifted the roof off when Robbie Brady headed his side to victory with both O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane citing the noise they made as a major factor. However, the Republic's fans have been allocated only around 4,500 tickets for Sunday's match at the 59,000-capacity Stade de Lyon and while more will find a way in somehow, they will be significantly outnumbered by their French counterparts.