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Talking points from Paris

France swept the Republic of Ireland aside in the Paris rain last night.

Goals from Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir ensured a 2-0 win for the impressive hosts in awful conditions.

Here are the main talking points from the Stade de France.

Defensive mistakes

France dominated proceedings, but Martin O’Neill will be disappointed with the two goals his team conceded.

The first came from a Fekir corner, with Giroud rising above Duffy to force a save from Doyle. The Chelsea striker found the back of the net from the rebound, and France doubled their lead four minutes later.

Fekir twisted and turned on the edge of the box before squeezing off a powerful shot on his weaker right foot.

The Lyon playmaker’s effort was straight at Colin Doyle, who made a complete mess of his save, and the ball trickled over the line.

To Doyle’s credit, the Bradford City ‘keeper recovered well, and made some smart stops after his costly mistake.

“It was really disappointed to concede from the corner kick and the second goal probably could have been avoided but you’re sitting there at 38 maybe 39 minutes thinking ‘if we can get into half-time’,” O’Neill admitted afterwards.

Familiar frustrations

As anticipated, Ireland spent long periods of the game chasing the ball.

However, Martin O’Neill’s men were poor in possession, and often opted for the long ball in a familiar (and frustrating) pattern.

The Boys in Green failed to keep the ball when they won it back, and created very little over the 90 minutes.

There were some improvements after the break, but the display was riddled with sloppy passes and a lack of ideas.

O’Neill admitted afterwards that Ireland need to use the ball more efficiently, and Seamus Coleman also expressed his disappointment at this aspect of the game.

“Sometimes you just have to accept that the other side are better and they can deal with the ball,” O’Neill said.

“It’s when we had it, we didn’t use it well enough, we gave it away sloppily I thought.”

Dream debuts for trio

Derrick Williams earned his first start at senior international level, starting the game at left back.

The Blackburn defender had the unenviable task of facing one of the world’s best talents in Kylian Mbappé, but produced a solid shift on a difficult night for the Boys in Green.

Graham Burke came off the bench in the second half to become the first League of Ireland based player to represent the league at international level since Joe Gamble in 2007.

The Shamrock Rovers star claimed it was “a dream come true” afterwards, and will be hoping to add to his first cap in the coming months and years.

“I’m over the moon and I can’t really put it into words right now,” the 24 year old said.

“But it’s a dream come true. I’m proud to say I made a senior cap for the Republic of Ireland.”

Milwall midfielder Shaun Williams also won his first cap off the bench, and the 31 year old described his introduction as a special moment.

The Irish manager also fielded an experimental midfield, with Declan Rice moving up the pitch to partner Preston’s Alan Browne in the middle of the park.

Reaction

Speaking after the defeat, Martin O’Neill tried to look for the positives after a difficult night in France.

“Personally speaking I’m delighted with the test because it was great for some of our younger players to experience that sort of atmosphere which they wouldn’t have done before,” the 65 year old claimed.

“We had a League of Ireland debutant which is great news and those are the sort of positive things about it.”

The experience of such an occasion – playing against one of Europe’s finest international sides – will be a good experience for Ireland’s fringe and younger players.

It was also great to see Graham Burke come off the bench, and Derrick Williams showed signs of promise.

Alan Judge made another appearance off the bench, and it is good to see the Brentford winger back to full fitness following his injury woes.

What’s next?

Ireland will face the USA in another international friendly at the Aviva on Saturday, while Didier Deschamp’s French side will take on Italy and the USA before their first World Cup clash on June 16th.

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