Brazil prove too strong for Stephen Kenny's brave Irish under-21s in Toulon semi-final
Republic of Ireland Under-21s 0 Brazil Under-22s 2 (Paulinho 15, Matheus Cunha 47)
Ireland’s quest to venture one last step by reaching the Toulon Tournament final was obliterated today with a goal in each half by brilliant Brazil in today’s semi-final in Vitrolles.
Stephen Kenny’s outfit always faced an uphill task to upset an older team preparing to defend their Olympic title next year. Aside from a chance for Connor Ronan to equalise just before the break, Ireland rarely troubled the classy South Americans.
In fact, Manchester City star Douglas Silva should have made an early breakthrough but sliced a third-minute penalty wide. It has no material impact as Paulinho fired the Samba Boys ahead on 15 minutes before the tournament top scorer Matheus Cunha tucked away the second two minutes after half-time.
The Boys in Green will meet Mexico on Saturday’s play-off, a curtain raiser for the final between Brazil and Japan.
Zack Elbouzedi’s withdrawal from the squad due to a dislocated shoulder sustained against China on Monday afforded Stephen Mallon a first appearance under Kenny. The Belfast-born winger spent time on loan at A-League side Central Coast Mariners from Sheffield United last season.
André Soares Jardine, a former assistant to senior boss Luis Felipe Scolari, ordered his Brazil side to attack from the outset and they should have sped ahead from their first attack.
When Conor Masterson bundled over Matheus Cunha six yards out, Mexican referee Marcos Enrique Santander pointed to the spot and booked the former Liverpool defender.
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, still at Pool, was sent the wrong way from the penalty but holding midfielder couldn’t keep it on target.
Ireland’s first attempt fell to defender Dara O’Shea, who nodded over from a corner, but the slick passing of Brazil soon opened them up.
Paulinho, the Bayer Leverkusen winger, was allowed slip away from Jayson Molumby to get a clear sight at goal from 25 yards. Though his shot didn’t carry much venom, it bobbled over the hand of Kelleher and into the net.
That lead might have been doubled by the same player on 37 minutes following another sweeping move. Paulinho’s rising effort bent a yard wide of Kelleher’s upright.
Then came Ireland’s best chance to level. Darragh Leahy’s cross from the left drifted all the way to fellow full-back Lee O’Connor. The Manchester United defender squared for Ronan, who blazed his shot over from 10 yards.
It would prove a crucial moment as Ireland conceded a soft second within 100 seconds of the restart. Once again,Paulinho was involved by cutting in from the left and his lay-off allowed Matheus Cunha swivel to tuck a low shot through a thicket of Irish defenders and beyond a static Kelleher.
Only a swift response would offer some encouragement and Aaron Connolly almost provided. However, as was the case with Ronan’s opportunity, he was unable to keep it under the post.
Kelleher was forced to go full-stretch in denying substitute Guga a third but Ireland can feel no shame at bowing out against the best team at the 12-nation tournament.
Ireland: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Manchester United), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (Unattached), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Brighton), C Coventry (West Ham United); S Mallon (Sheffield United), C Ronan (Wolves), A Connolly (Brighton); A Idah (Norwich City).
Subs: S Power (Norwich City) for Mallon (54), J Taylor (Barnet) for Ronan (65), A Drinan (Waterford) for Idah (83), J Barrett (Reading) for Connolly (84).
Brazil: Ivan; Emerson (Guga 56), Iago, Murilo, Lynaco; Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique (Lucas Fernandes 78); Antony (Wendel 56), Pedrinho; Paulinho; Matheus Cunha.
Referee: M Enrique Santander (MEX)