Saturday 20 July 2019

French boss Didier Deschamps fears Ireland's 'genetic qualities' ahead of crunch clash

France's coach Didier Deschamps during training
France's coach Didier Deschamps during training

Daniel McDonnell in Lyon

DIDIER DESCHAMPS believes that Ireland's genetic qualities will make life difficult for overwhelming favourites France in Lyon tomorrow.

The French coach was complimentary about the Irish spirit during his pre-match press conference at Stade de Lyon ahead of the round of 16 encounter.

He spoke about Ireland's direct style but stressed that they individuals who are capable of keeping the ball on the ground and playing some attractive football.

But it's their tenacity which he views as a real threat.

"The Republic of Ireland are an example of great solidarity and hard work within a side," he said. "We often talk about this famous fighting spirit. They don't think twice. They go all the way. It's important to have that attribute and it's almost a genetic quality they have.

"They are ready to go into battle as a unit and will fight all the way for each other. That's why I know we will have a tricky match.

"They've got a lot of heart, they work hard but it's not just that," he continued, "There are some good footballers within the team. The large majority are in the Premier League and used to  playing against the top English sides. And, from their first three matches, although there have been quite a few changes, what I've seen is that they can play the ball on the deck even if they tend to play a more direct game.

"They have good footballers like Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan if he plays. Brady. McCarthy. Shane Long. These are all players that play consistently at Premier League level."

The latter statement is not entirely accurate given that Jeff Hendrick has never played at the highest level, but the French coach did throw out more names than the average international coach pressed for an opinion on an Irish side.

Deschamps conceded that France had an advantage considering they finished their group stage on Sunday - three days before Ireland - and they also knew they had qualified before their final game so he was able to shuffle the pack. Some members of the local media attempting to present it as an issue for the natives in the sense they might be off the pace. Deschamps dismissed the notion.

He also shrugged off the significance of Thierry Henry's 2009 handball. "It's part of history," he said, "There's a new chapter to write for both countries. You can't change what's gone on in the past. What you can change, the both of us, is what happens tomorrow."

French captain Hugo Lloris was between the sticks on that famous night and he sung from the same hymn sheet by refusing to get dragged into discussion of the topic.

He was asked if France were guilty of overconfidence going into the second leg seven years ago considering that they carried a one goal advantage from Dublin which meant that few envisaged the drama that unfolded when Ireland brought the match to extra-time.

Could they make the same mistake again?

"I don't think we're overconfident at all," said the Spurs keeper, "We have a lot of respect for the Republic of Ireland. We've been able to watch them on video and, apart from the second half against Belgium, they've showed a lot of good stuff against Sweden and against Italy. They'll be a bit more excited that they went through in the last few minutes.

"They are where they are, they are very motivated but we'll also be up for it too."

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