France's Mike Maignan saves from Nathan Collins's header. [Inpho/Ben Brady]

Ireland lose opening '24 Euro game vs France, but it was close

It seems that France have found a replacement for their 2018 World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris, who has retired. On Monday night at the Aviva Stadium, the Republic of Ireland were denied what would have been a deserved Euro 2024 qualifying point by AC Milan goalie Mike Maignan, who made a near superhuman save in the 89th minute to deny a powerful header by Irish defender Nathan Collins from close range.

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France, who were beaten in penalty shootout in the Dec. 18 World Cup final by Argentina, after a classic 3-3 game, arrived in Dublin on the back of a 4-0 win over the Netherlands in Paris on Friday night. The French were well on top in the first half at the Aviva, without really troubling Irish ‘keeper Gavin Bazunu, other than his needing to smother loose ball on several occasions. 

The Irish team was well set up by manager Stephen Kenny and they retained their composure as they frustrated the French stars, notably Kylian Mbappe, and in doing so surprised many of their own supporters by getting to half-time with the score at 0-0.

However, five minutes into the second half Irish midfielder Josh Cullen gave the ball away when trying to find his colleague Jayson Molumby just outside the penalty area. Cullen’s pass went directly to Benjamin Pavard, who beat Bazunu with a brilliant strike.

Nathan Collins reacts at the final whistle. [Inpho/Morgan Treacy]

It was an unstoppable shot by the French defender, but Bazunu later made two great saves to keep the score at one-nil. 

With the raucous home crowd urging them on the Irish tried hard for an equalizer. Seamus Coleman and Chiedozie Ogbene were outstanding on the right side, but the team were missing that little bit of luck in front of goal that you need to score. 

Manager Kenny said: ‘‘France are an exceptional team but we were comfortable ourselves in possession at times.’’

In midweek The Boys in Green had beaten Latvia 3-2 in a friendly at the Aviva where 18 year-old Evan Ferguson got his first-ever senior goal.

Irish starting XI against France: Bazunu, Coleman, Collins, Egan, O’Shea, Doherty, Cullen, Knight, Molumby, Ogbene, Ferguson. Subs used: Browne, Obefemi, McClean, Johnston, Idah.

French starting XI: Maignan, Pavard, Konaté, Upamecano, Hernández, Griezmann, Camavinga, Rabiot, Kolo Muani, Giroud, Mbapp. Subs used: Koundé, Tchouaméniat, Thuram, Diabyat.

Supersubs Chiedozie Ogbene, the scorer, and Michael Johnston, the playmaker, celebrate combining to get the Republic's winner against Latvia in last week's 3-2 friendly at the Aviva Stadium. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]