Three major talking points taken from Ireland’s courageous effort against France
Benjamin Pavard's stunning strike helped France continue their red-hot Euro 2024 qualification form by edging past a resilient Ireland side to clinch a 1-0 win at the Aviva Stadium.
Here are the three key talking points from Dublin last night.
That agonising save
What might have been. After limiting the World Cup runners-up to very few clear-cut chances, Ireland went for it in the closing stages, roared on by a sold-out Aviva Stadium, decibel levels rising with every foray forward.
Stephen Kenny’s triple-change to introduce James McClean, Alan Browne and Mikey Johnston on 77 minutes added a real spark as the hosts went in search of a famous late leveller to kickstart the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
McClean and Browne tried their luck but fired wide, before French goalkeeper Mike Maignan came to the rescue of Jules Kounde to prevent an own-goal from a corner on 88 minutes.
Seconds later, Cullen’s cross found the head of Nathan Collins, who made a huge leap to guide it towards the top corner. It looked destined to find the net but AC Milan’s Maignan produced as good a save that has ever been seen at Lansdowne Road to deny the Wolves defender a place in the history books.
“I thought I’d done everything,” said Collins afterwards.
“I got as high as I could, got power behind it, but it’s an unbelievable save. That’s the difference at the top level.”
The Rotherham forward came back into Ireland’s starting 11 to partner Evan Ferguson in attack and got the better of AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez on several occasions. His fine tackle on Kylian Mbappe in the first minute set the tone for a fine performance.
The Cork native acted as the out-ball and beat Hernandez in a couple of foot races, winning two frees high up the pitch in the first half to relieve the pressure as Ireland found their way into the game.
Ogebene’s lighting pace down the right flank caused the French problems, and for long spells it looked like if Ireland were to find a goal, the forward would play a key role in it.
Ireland’s best chance before Collins’ late header came courtesy of Ogbene’s bursting run down the right-flank before crossing to Knight, whose effort was blocked.
The 25-year-old deservedly picked up Player of the Match at full-time on his 15th cap, and looks to be a crucial player for Kenny on the road to Germany 2024.
"I am happy with the display, but, of course, disappointed that we didn't get the result,” he said afterwards.
"We'll take so much from this game now and hopefully we can rectify it in the away match. The future's bright, especially after a performance like that.”
Mbappe kept quiet
The PSG star arrived to Dublin 4 off the back of a brace against the Netherlands last Friday, and 31 goals in 33 club games so far this season.
But Ireland skipper Séamus Coleman did a fine job of restricting the World Cup Golden Boot winner to almost no clear chances, sticking tight to him throughout, with the help of Collins.
The 34-year-old returned to the starting line-up after overcoming a thigh strain, and produced an impressive display from right wing-back against arguably the best player in world football.
The Donegal man switched to the right of the back-three late on, and can be proud of an immense performance on his 68th cap, while French manager Didier Deschamps also recognised the hosts’ defensive efforts.
“I think the opposition did a really good job on defending them (Mbappe and Hernandez). We scored four on Friday, but didn’t pose much of a threat (against Ireland),” he said.