France vs Ireland, EURO 2016: The Grudge Match
But that’s just the information part, the real drama lies on a Wednesday evening at Paris way back in 2009. Both these teams faced off in their second leg World Cup qualifier. Thierry Henry had his very own ‘Hand of God’ moment, TWICE, while passing the ball to William Gallas who scored against the Irish.
That goal was counted, the Irish lost their nuts, and France qualified to play in 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Adding salt to injury for the Irish, Henry admitted to illegal play but said it was the referee’s job to manage the game; the Irish soccer authority pleaded with FIFA for a rematch or at least a spot at the World Cup with was then guffawed by the now infamous Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
In a save of face moment, Blatter apologised for his behaviour (we still don’t buy it!), the Irish were given 5 million Euros as ‘hush money’ and that was that!
Now, they say the public has a short memory and professionals even shorter. Codswallop!
Even beneath all the smiles and preparation, one thing is clear: Martin O’Neill will be reminding his boys to remember 09 and exact a sweet revenge against the host team, beating them on their own soil.
This is the first time since that infamous event that France and Ireland will face each other at Lyons. The shadow of the past hangs around which many pundits are saying is a revenge match.
Remember, for the Irish what happened 500 years ago is a week old incident, what happened 7 years ago is a mere five-minutes…just ask the English!
According to Daily Mail, during an interview with France coach Didier Deschamps and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, they talked about the Irish ‘spirit’ and understood the shadow hanging over them. Lloris went even so far as to use the word ‘battle’ three times!
“I use this word (battle) because we are very familiar with the British sides,’ said Lloris who plays for Tottenham.
Lloris is one of the three players in the current French side who was there during the ‘Hand of God’ 2009 match. The Irish too have a few on their team.
Ireland go in as minnows for their latest clash and coach O’Neill is well aware of that, the win against Italy has certainly changed the mood in the dressing room but pundits predict that win as ‘one-off’.
In a press interview he said, “I would not want to head out of the competition meekly and that will not happen. I want to go down blazing if we have to go down at all…”
For France though, Pogba and Payet need to find their rhythm. They also need to tighten their defence.
The match for now is anyone’s guess, the French will definitely keep their march going at their home turf but the Irish have motivation from the past to keep their campaign hopes alive.
All in all, this match might just go into penalty shoot-outs!
France: Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba, Kanté, Matuidi; Griezmann, Giroud, Payet
Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, O’Shea, Duffy, Brady; McClean, Whelan, McCarthy, Hendrick; Murphy, Long