Euro 2016 2nd round fantasy preview: France v Republic of Ireland
Hosts France moved into the knock-out round without many issues but in their next game they face a grudge match against Republic of Ireland.
The Irish are still bitter about missing out to France in a qualifying play-off for the 2010 World Cup in which a handball by Thierry Henry appeared to rob them of a place in the finals, so the atmosphere at the Stade de Lyon on Sunday promises to be very special indeed.
France have not got out of second gear at the finals yet, but Didier Deschamps’ men could be holding something back for matches against more testing opposition.
Progression was much less straightforward for Ireland, who needed a late header from Robbie Brady to seal a 1-0 win over a much-changed Italy in their final group match.
It is clear that France have a lot more attacking quality in their ranks, but the pressure of hosting, coupled with Ireland’s desire for revenge, means this match could be closer than anticipated.
France v Republic of Ireland head-to-head
Ireland have only scored a single goal against France in the last 35 years, which was Robbie Keane’s strike in that aforementioned World Cup play-off. France took a 1-0 lead back to Paris after Nicolas Anelka’s winner in Dublin, but Keane’s strike forced extra-time in the return leg.
Henry’s handball then went down in history, the striker controlling the ball on his arm in the build-up to the goal by William Gallas that sent France to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The teams had also met in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup a few years previously. Ireland were able to draw 0-0 in Paris, but that man Henry scored the winner for France in Dublin to give his side one of their seven wins against Ireland in 16 meetings between the sides.
France are unbeaten in five games against Ireland, but this will be the first time that the teams have played in the European Championship, either at the finals or in the qualifying rounds.
France fantasy players to watch
Dimitri Payet has certainly been one of the best players at Euro 2016 so far, with his two goals and one assist marking him out as perhaps the most productive attacker in the finals, especially taking into account that he was rested for his side’s last group game, a 0-0 draw with Switzerland.
Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny have forged a strong defensive partnership in front of the goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, who is also the captain of the side. The inclusion of N’Golo Kanté has contributed to the solidity of the France back line, which has conceded just once so far.
Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann have scored a goal each without being particularly impressive, with Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial the more radical attacking options.
There are two Lyon-based players in the France squad, but neither right-back Christophe Jallet or centre-back Samuel Umtiti are likely to start this match on their home ground.
Republic of Ireland fantasy players to watch
Robbie Brady’s winner will go down in Irish football history and as the primary set-piece taker in the side he could be a bargain fantasy football selection for a lot of users. However, there is an injury doubt over left-back Stephen Ward, who has an ankle knock, which could mean Brady plays in a deeper role than he has in Ireland’s last two matches.
Experienced playmaker Wes Hoolahan has a goal and an assist at the finals and will be similarly cheap for his game, although coach Martin O’Neill may elect to start him on the bench here.
Seamus Coleman headed to Euro 2016 on the back of an unimpressive season with Everton but he has done well at the finals, while club-mate James McCarthy was also terrific in the 1-0 win over Italy that kept Ireland in the tournament.