Macdara Ferris reporting from Paris
World Cup-bound France welcome the Republic of Ireland to the Stade de Fance on Monday night (kick-off 8pm Irish time).
Like a domestique in cycling providing help and support before the stars look to climb the big mountain stage, the Boys in Green are in town to give Didier Deschamps men a helpful run out ahead of their Russia 2018 campaign.
The French manager spoke about the decision of picking Ireland for this friendly in the pre-match press conference (see link) as they look to play similar opposition to those that the face in the World Cup – Australia, Peru and Denmark.
Colombia came to Paris earlier in the year and won 3-2 so Deschamps has been working on rectifying those defensive mistakes.
“We could have avoided the goals we conceded in March but to solve that issue we need to work, work and work in training and in the games too,” said the former Juventus, Marseille and Monaco coach.
Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi said on the eve of the game that the later start for the World Cup will help his team as they look to iron out issues at the back highlighted in the friendly against Colombia.
“We have a little bit more time as we are used from previous competitions. It was a defence problems in March. Everyone must defend. The first defence is the forwards so we need to work together.
“In some of the previous games the teams were split in two. We know what went wrong against Colombia so we are eager and impatient to show how we can do better.”
Deschamps confirmed on the eve of the game that Matuidi will play and that Marseille ‘keeper Steve Mandanda will start in goal. The French have alternated between a 4-3-3 formation and 4-2-3-1 during Deschamps’ six years in charge.
“With three midfielders you get more guarentees to ciculate the ball between offense and defence and defence and offense,” said the former World Cup winning captain.
“What you want to have is balance in the team and you can have that with both systems but you need that balance when you don’t have the ball.”
Deschamps will use his squad to the fullest this evening confirming he will use all six subs. He also will give game time to some of the more inexperienced internationals in this squad.
The French squad includes exciting young talent like Sevilla’s Steven Nzonzi, Marseille’s Florian Thauvin and Lyon’s Nabil Fekir (who between them have just 15 international caps).
Matuidi firmly believes that the young players in the French squad can step up and help Les Blues challenge in Russia.
“The World Cup is coming up and we have lots of young players with lots of talent. They are very enthusiastic but they must stay focussed,” said 31-year-old Matuidi.
“We have a good team but we aren’t the only one. We are talking about players who have played in big clubs.
“We are talking about who are used to the high level. They need to keep this warrior mentality this state of mind that we have to win and win and win.”
France provisional World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain);
Defenders: Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Adil Rami (Marseille), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid);
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Ngolo Kante (Chelsea), Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla);
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco);
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
With no World Cup to look forward to for the Republic of Ireland, the focus is on blooding players for the upcoming UEFA Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers to follow.
The prize of home games in Dublin at that final tournament would be rich reward for qualification.
Just like the March match in Turkey, this French friendly provides Martin O’Neill with the chance to give more game time to some of the young members in the squad.
A goalkeeping injury crisis has opened the door for Bohemians keeper Shane Supple to join the squad but Colin Doyle is likely to start for Ireland although former St. Patrick’s Athletic player Conor O’Malley may get some game time.
Another League of Ireland perspective is that Graham Burke may be given the first international cap for a Shamrock Rovers player in 32 years.
It was an injury-curtailed visit to the Stade de France for Jon Walters the last time Ireland played in the venue – the Euro 2016 1-1 draw with Sweden when Wes Hoolahan got the Ireland goal.
Walters is back in the squad – but Sean Maguire is not – and with O’Neill noting the injury frailties of the Burnley man might that open the door for Burke?
“You know Jon’s history,” said O’Neill on the eve of the game. “He was our talisman for the Euros. He has got older but I still think he is important.
“He wanted to stay on for this campaign and I was pleased that he did as the younger players can pick up something from him and his attitude.
“When you get older and the injuries are curtailing your training programme, it does become a wee bit more difficult.
“We went in to the Turkey game with a number of young recruits with some making their debut with the two lads upfront. Both are missing for this game. We are trying to evolve as a team.
“For young kids coming in this will be as big a game as some of them would have played. France are very strong at home and are preparing for a World Cup with World Class players. It is a massive test for us.”
While Callum O’Dowda is availabe for O’Neill, Jeff Hendrick, who had such a good Euro 2016 in France, will sit the game out. Harry Arter is available but looks unlikely to start.
“Harry has not played first team football for quite some considerable time. He was substituted five weeks ago and since then he has picked up an Achilles problem.
“I’m not saying he won’t get time tomorrow night but it will be more about a fitness programme for him for the USA game.”
Martin O’Neill’s men trained out on the Stade de France pitch on late Sunday afternoon in the sweltering 28 degree Parisian temperatures.
It will be cooler for the Boys in Green come kick off on Monday night although they may have to content with heavy thunderstorms schedule for the Saint Denis area tomorrow evening.
Republic of Ireland squad:
Goalkeepers: Colin Doyle (Bradford City), Conor O'Malley (Peterborough United), Shane Supple (Bohemians)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Greg Cunningham (Preston North End), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), John Egan (Brentford), Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion), Kevin Long (Burnley), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), John O'Shea (Sunderland), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers)
Midfielders: Harry Arter (Bournemouth), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Daryl Horgan (Preston North End), James McClean (West Bromwich Albion), David Meyler (Hull City), Callum O'Dowda (Bristol City), Eunan O'Kane (Leeds United), Shaun Williams (Millwall).
Forwards: Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers), Shane Long (Southampton), Jonathan Walters (Burnley).
Referee: Georgi Kabakov (Bulgaria).
This will be the 17th match between the sides, with the most recent encounter being the 2-1 loss in Lyon in the last sixteen of Euro 2016 after which France went on to make the final of that tournament.
Antoine Griezmann is the French star player – top scorer and the player of the tournament at Euro 2016 – he scored four goals and provide four assists in Russia 2018 qualifying.
France 1/6; Draw 5/1; Ireland 20/1.
2-1 to France
Republic of Ireland
Injured: Darren Randolph (groin), Keiren Westwood (groin), Kieran O'Hara (ankle), Ciaran Clark (knee), Sean Maguire (hamstring), Jeff Hendrick.
Unavailable: John O’Shea, Callum Robinson (awaiting international clearance).
extratime.ie will be reporting from the Stade de France in Paris on Monday bringing you all the pre-match buildup, match updates and post-match reaction.