Wednesday 21 August 2019

French hold little fear for determined U-19s

Jack James. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack James. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

There's been little time to dwell on Joe Hodge's sumptuous equaliser in the Ireland U-19 camp as their Euro finals adventure pits them against the aristocrats of France tomorrow night.

Tom Mohan and his staff, alongside U-21 manager Stephen Kenny, made a dash across Yerevan after their draw against Norway on Monday to watch the French in action.

Their observations reinforced the view that France are favourites to reclaim a crown last won in 2016 by a side featuring Kylian Mbappe.

Over a 12-minute blitz either side of half-time at the national stadium, Lionel Rouxel's tyros struck three times against the Czech Republic. The game as a contest was over by the hour mark.

Manchester United target Benoit Badiashile orchestrates proceedings from centre-back. He gained some notoriety in December for being publicly admonished by his Monaco boss Thierry Henry for not tucking his chair in after a Champions League press conference.

Ireland defender Jack James realises his team will be doing plenty of tucking in at the Banants Stadium tomorrow (6.0 Irish time).

The point claimed on Monday means Ireland will head into Sunday's concluding Group B contest against the Czechs with a chance of reaching the semi-final, irrespective of the result against France.

The bonus territory for Ireland falls in the middle of their campaign, not that James (right) is inclined to cede control of their destiny.

"We won't give France too much respect," said the Bedfordshire-born full-back who declared his loyalty through his granddad John Comerford last year.

"It is our intention to have a right go at them and try to win the match. They might be a class group of players, but I think we've a class squad too."

Hodge, the diminutive midfielder, was also upbeat about facing their toughest test of the season without several key players.

The spate of withdrawals opened the door for the 16-year-old to step up for his U-19 debut. The Manchester City cadet capped it with a thumping leveller nine from full-time.

"We're capable of outplaying teams," said the English-born playmaker. "And we can hurt them too."

Irish Independent

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