Ireland suffer late heartbreak as France claim dramatic win at U19 European championship
France U19 1 Ireland U19 0
Only an unlikely Norway victory over France will deny Ireland a place in the Euro U-19 semi-finals if they conclude their Group B campaign on Sunday by beating goalless Czech Republic.
Tom Mohan’s side were aware of that permutation even before they tackled the French in Yerevan, due to the stalemate between Norway and the Czechs earlier in the day, but they tested the pre-tournament favourites to remain confident of completing their mission.
They almost held out for a draw against a side with €70m worth of talent at the Banants Stadium, a gallant display keeping the game scoreless until 83 minutes, when the pressure finally told.
Tired bodies and minds were evident as a searching cross caught Ireland square enough for substitute Wilson Isidor to power his header into the far corner.
It was cruel on goalkeeper Brian Maher, whose first-half heroics retained parity at the break.
Ireland even conjured a couple of chances in the second half to threaten a famous victory against three-time winners.
Like Monday’s 1-1 draw against Norway, Ireland had to survive a suspect start before settling into the contest, but eventually surrendered to late pressure.
Club commitments for several of his maintstays forced Mohan to drop deep into his options to select a squad capable of competing at such a high level.
Evidence of the youthful squad was again on show with the promotion of Matty Everitt to the starting team.
He provided the width on the right for another 16-year-old, central midfielder Joe Hodge, to try stretch the French.
That wasn’t the case in the first half as Ireland were pinned back throughout.
Against the run of play, Ireland fashioned a couple of chances to produce a shock in the second half.
All Brandon Kavanagh’s corner needed was a touch to steer home the breakthrough while France goalkeeper Stefan Bajic went full-stretch to deny Jonathan Afolabi.
Late pressure from the French, coupled with the humid conditions, forced Ireland to retreat, and the favourites eventually made their pressure show with the winning goal.
IRELAND U-19 - B Maher; A Lyons, M McGuinness, O McEntee; L O’Connor, J Hodge, K Ledwidge; A Reghba, B Kavanagh (B Coffey 63), M Everitt (T Wright 76); J Afolabi.
FRANCE U-19– S Bajic; P Kalulu, B Badiashile, O Solet, T Nidicki Matam; B Ndilu (N Ngoumou 77), M Caqueret (C Gomes 67), M Picouleau; C Abi (W Isidor 78), A Flips, J Ponceau (Y Begraoui 67).
Ref - Kristo Tohver (SPN).