Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir staked their claims to feature in France’s World Cup opener as they struck to condemn the Republic of Ireland to a 2-0 friendly defeat amid a Parisian downpour.
Chelsea frontman Giroud scored from close range and then saw goalkeeper Colin Doyle’s howler hand Fekir a second before the half-time whistle sounded on a night when Didier Deschamps’ Russia-bound side turned in a slick display.
Derrick Williams from Tramore, County Waterford, made his debut for Ireland last night. The Blackburn defender had a solid performance making some key clearances.
They face Italy and the United States before they open their campaign against Australia in Kazan on June 16, and they may hope for tougher tests with Ireland offering the physicality for which Deschamps chose them – both James McClean and Harry Arter were booked for rash challenges – but little else.
Skipper Blaise Matuidi was at the heart of France’s best work all night as he revelled in the space afforded him, with Steve Nzonzi sitting deep. His constant availability and ability to move the ball swiftly and intelligently allowed the men ahead of him to pose all kinds of problems for the Irish defence.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Giroud’s perseverance was rewarded as he finally made the pressure tell to fire France into a 40th-minute lead. He climbed to meet Fekir’s corner with a firm header, only to see keeper Doyle claw it away and, although his follow-up looked over the line before Seamus Coleman blocked it, he made sure at the third time of asking from point-blank range.
Moment to forget
Two days after seeing Liverpool counterpart Loris Karius make two howlers in the Champions League final, Doyle endured a nightmare of his own amid an otherwise solid display as he attempted to keep out Fekir’s 44th-minute effort. The keeper, making his third senior appearance for Ireland 66 days after his second, which had come after a wait of almost 11 years, could only look on in horror as the ball looped up of his outstretched hand and dropped gently into the net.
France: Steve Mandanda 6/10, Benjamin Mendy 7, Samuel Umtiti 6, Adil Rami 6, Djibril Sidibe 7, Blaise Matuidi (Capt) 8, Steve Nzonzi 7, Corentin Tolisso 7; Kylian Mbappe 7, Olivier Giroud 7, Nabil Fekir 7. Subs: Lucas Hernandez (for Mendy, 63) 6, Presnel Kimpembe (for Umtiti, 64) 6, Antoine Griezmann (for Fekir, 64) 6, Paul Pogba (for Tolisso, 77) 6, Ousmane Dembele (for Mbappe, 77) 6, Benjamin Pavard (for Sidibe, 82) 6.
Ireland: Colin Doyle 6, Seamus Coleman (Capt) 5, Kevin Long 6, Shane Duffy 6, Derrick Williams 6, Alan Browne 5, Declan Rice 7, Callum O’Dowda 6, Jonathan Walters 5, Shane Long 5, James McClean 5. Subs: Harry Arter (for Browne, 59) 5, David Meyler (for Walters, 59) 6, Alan Judge (for Long, 70) 5, Graham Burke (for O’Dowda, 70) 5, Shaun Williams (for Long, 80) 6, Matt Doherty (for D. Williams, 82) 5.
Who’s up next?
France v Italy, friendly, Friday June 1.
Republic of Ireland v United States, friendly, Saturday June 2.