Toulon Tournament Semi-Final Report: Brazil U23 2 - 0 Republic of Ireland U21

Wed, Jun 12 2019

Stephen Kenny's side will now face Mexico in the 3/4th place play-off. Credit: Eddie Lennon (ETPhotos)

Goals in either half from Bayer Leverkusen striker Pauliho and Matheus Cunha of RB Leipzig saw a classy Brazil Olympic squad set up a ninth Toulon Tournament final against Japan.

André Jardines’ young selecao simply had too much for the Republic of Ireland under-21s, who will face Mexico in a re-run of their Group C clash in the third and fourth-place play-off on Saturday.

In truth, the result could have read more favourably for a Brazil side who are yet to concede in the tournament, but captain Douglas Luiz missed a penalty inside four minutes for the South Americans.

It took Brazil just 15 minutes to hit the front, however, as Paulinho’s shot deceived Caoimhin Kelleher in the Irish goal before the tournament’s top scorer Cunha struck just after the break.

Stephen Kenny’s side went into the game heavily unfancied, with some bookmakers offering odds of 25/1 on an upset against a side packed with seasoned first-team players in Europe and Brazil.

Ireland began the game confidently, however, and looked to use the full width of the pitch to stretch a Brazil side stacked in the centre of the pitch, backed by Manchester City’s Luiz.

Disaster struck when Brazil were awarded a penalty from their first attack as Cunha fell in a tangle of legs with Masterson as he was about to connect with Antony’s cross and a penalty was awarded.

Masterson was, somewhat harshly, booked for his role in giving away the spot-kick but was breathing a big sigh of relief moments later as Luiz thrashed a terrible penalty well wide.

Cunha had two early chances to add to his three goals in the tournament to date, shooting across goal before another good run ended with him flashing a shot outside the near post.

Brighton & Hove Albion winger Aaron Connolly looked Ireland’s most likely threat up against Barcelona-bound Emersen, and he cut inside before shooting narrowly past the post.

Good pressing from Adam Idah forced a corner and, from Stephen Mallon’s delivery, West Bromwich Albion defender Dara O’Shea couldn’t keep his header down.

Brazil showed why they’re the competition’s top scorers as Paulinho found space with a deceptive run from deep and finished off a fluid passing move.

The striker’s run wasn’t picked up quickly enough by Ireland captain Jayson Molumby and his scuffed shot bounced off the bumpy turf and past Kelleher, who should still have saved it.

It was rough justice for an Ireland side who had gone toe-to-toe with a physically and experientially more developed side, but there was also a sense that they could only hold out for so long.

Ireland pressed well and had a couple of half-chances on the break as the half progressed, but centre-back Lyanco was twice able to stick out a long leg and just about avert danger.

Any time Ireland did commit numbers to attack, the Brazilians broke with such speed and precision that a second goal seemed inevitable before the broke.

Paulinho thought he’d netted his second – which would have taken him clear at the top of the goalscoring charts – but his curling effort was inches past the post with Kelleher well-beaten.

To their credit, Ireland continued to probe and, when Idah released Darragh Leahy down the left, the Bohemians full-back cross was touched back by Mallon.

Connor Ronan arrived late into the box and met the ball with first-time on the half-volley, but he couldn’t keep his shot down and the chance was gone.

It took just over a minute-and-a-half of the second period for Brazil to double their lead and all but end the game as a content, Cunha the first man to net four in this year’s tournament.

Once again, the finish didn’t exactly reflect well on keeper Kelleher, who was flat-footed when Cunha squeezed a shot between Masterson and O’Shea, but he may have been unsighted.

Guga, who had replaced the embattled Emerson at the break, forced Kelleher into a smart save with his feet, while Luiz was wasteful in blazing over after Paulinho had outfought O’Shea.

A desperate challenge from Conor Coventry denied Pedrinho goal number three, while left-back Iago squandered another chance when played in by Luiz.

Ireland did finally force Brazil keeper Ivan into action and it was no surprise that it came through Connolly, the Galwayman’s dipping volley bouncing awkwardly before the keeper claimed.

Normal service resumed as the impressive Guga forced a fine diving stop from Kelleher at his near post before a host of substitutions disrupted the momentum of the game.

Ireland had a chance to pull one back in injury time as one sub in Josh Barrett found another in Jack Taylor with a cross but was inexplicably called back for offside.

It would have been nothing more than a consolation at that stage as Brazil deservedly ran out 2-0 winners and few would bet against them lifting Le Tournoi for a ninth time on Saturday.

Republic of Ireland under-21: Caoimhin Kelleher; Lee O’Connor, Dara O’Shea, Conor Masterson, Darragh Leahy; Connor Ronan (Jack Taylor 66), Jayson Molumby, Conor Coventry; Stephen Mallon (Simon Power 54), Aaron Connolly (Josh Barrett 84), Adam Idah (Aaron Drinan 83).

Subs not used: Conor Kearns (gk), Liam Scales, Tyreke Wilson, Canice Carroll, Jamie Lennon, Jason Knight.

Booked: Conor Masterson (3), Jack Taylor (71).

Brazil under-23: Ivan; Emerson (Guga 46), Murilo, Lyanco, Iago; Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique (Lucas Fernandes 78), Pedrinho; Antony (Wendel 56), Paulinho (Mateus Vital 87), Cunha.

Subs not used: Lucas Perri (gk), Lucao (gk), Adryelson, Bruno Fuchs, Rogério, Bruno Tabata, Pedro.

Booked: Emerson (41).

Referee: Luis Enrique Santander Aguirre.

Attendance: TBC

Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Paulinho (Brazil).