Irish have reason for optimism despite first leg defeat

November 15, 2009

Most of the French fans who made up over half of my red-eye flight back to Brussels from Dublin on Sunday concurred that “Le Bleus” were lucky to emerge from the Croke Park cauldron around eight hours earlier with a 1-0 victory over Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup playoff.

“The result was fantastic, but the performance was not so good,” Jean, from Lille, said after the dust had settled on the win over Giovanni Trapattoni’s team, thanks to a 73rd minute deflected goal from Nicolas Anelka.

“We were lucky to score and we didn’t show any flair. The Irish will be disappointed not to have got a draw,” said Marie, sporting a red, white and blue wig.

“If we don’t play better on Wednesday, Ireland will definitely score and it will be difficult for us.”

Those views had perhaps been shared by an uncomfortable-looking France coach Ray Domenech, who failed to heap any praise on his side and threatened to walk out of the post-match news conference if he was questioned further over a reported pre-match spat with captain Thierry Henry.

French media reported the Barcelona striker was unhappy Domenech had not picked his former Arsenal team mate Patrick Vieira — now at Inter Milan — in his squad for the playoff.

Henry didn’t look to be as involved as he can be, failing to chase down a number of half chances, though the the Irish defence, marshalled brilliantly by Aston Villa’s Richard Dunne, deserves a bit of credit for that.

On the flip side for the French, Anelka showed a hunger and willingness to try to unlock a game which was cat and mouse for the most part and lacked any outstanding or memorable periods of play from either side.

Ireland for their part stuck to wily Trapattoni’s game plan by closing down France at every opportunity. It was reminiscent of the glory days when Ireland under Jack Charlton used to play by the motto “Put them under pressure”.

The home side also created their own opportunities to score and went close on a number of occasions. John O’Shea in the first half and Glenn Whelan late in the game both scuffed their chance for Irish immortality.

On the evidence of the first leg encounter, the French fans on board my flight on Sunday agreed that if Ireland can get an early goal, turn the impatient home support against their team, and show more confidence in attack, Trapattoni has a real chance of emulating Charlton in Paris and steering the Boys in Green to South Africa next June.

PHOTO: France’s Nicolas Anelka celebrates scoring during the 2010 World Cup play off qualifying soccer match against Ireland at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

ireland have no chance of getting a result in france………they are out!

Posted by paddy | Report as abusive

paddy!i agree, the irish will score in their own goal, we all know what they are like

Posted by northerner | Report as abusive

I think Paddy is talking rubbish!The Irish played some great football at times and were unlucky not to get a draw, I would love to see them take the French in there own back yard.Green ArmyP.S Paddy you suck!!!!

Posted by Charles Harris | Report as abusive

charles harris, you are the most delusional malcolm i have ever come across.of course i would love to see the irish get a result against the french but the french will dominate and probably cruise to a 3-0 win.having said that, if the mighty richard dunne can step up to his full potential then france will be in big trouble.the fate of ireland against france solely relies on richard dunne

Posted by paddy | Report as abusive

You must still be drunk paddy!I am lost for words and for Charles Harris III that does not happen trust me sirAnd for super Richard Dunne he will step up to the plate and dine on them French forwards

Posted by charles Harris | Report as abusive

When Zidane left France, France disappeared like Roy Keane disappeared in the 2002 World Cup. Unlike France, Ireland have a replacement in Robbie Keane and Shay Given.

Posted by Dapps | Report as abusive

robbie keane is average at best and shay given has done well with the limited skill he has.dunne is the only world class player ireland have ever produced.dapps, you are right in saying that zidane was everything to france, as he won them the world cup by himself but at the end of the day, to bring up the nightmare that was roy keane leaving the world cup in ’02 obviously means you are a ignorant wasteman

Posted by paddy | Report as abusive

DappsNo offence but I think we didn’t watch the same WC in 1998 : Zidane scored twice against Brazil but Blanc, Deschamps, Thuram and Barthez were in my view the best contributors to the title.”Unlike France, Ireland have a replacement in Robbie Keane and Shay Given” you must be joking : Ribery, Gignac, Gourcuff, Benzema, Nasri… remember those names, you will hear about them in the future (more than about Robbie Keane and Shay Given).

Posted by Franck | Report as abusive

what world cup were you watching franck…..had zidane not played in the 98 world cup, france might have qualified for the quater-finals at best, defiantely not win the tournament.thuram was pretty solid in defence. barthez was an average keeper proned to makin errors but blanc and deschamp – my nan could run faster than them!!!ribery is overrated as is benzema(which is being proven at real madrid already). nasri is quite good but will struggle to get into the arsenal team.since the zidane headbutt, france have been no where. richard dunne will bang in a hatrick tonight.

Posted by paddy | Report as abusive

Incidentally, we are live blogging the play-offs at decision_dayPop by and say hello

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

“richard dunne will bang in a hatrick tonight”lolOK nothing more to saykeep dreaming

Posted by Franck | Report as abusive

Re Paddy lolIn WC 1998, Zidane didn’t play the quater and Blanc scored a golden goal to qualify France for semi, Thuram scored two goals in semi-final and Barthez stopped Ronaldo alone in front of him after 10 min (which was in my mind totally determinant for the rest of the game).p.s.:Excuse my bad english

Posted by Franck | Report as abusive

NEWSFLASH:Thiery Henry selected on wing for French Rugby team.Marc Lievremont, Manager, says he has rarely ever seen a player with such ball handling ability!

Posted by David | Report as abusive

At least you still have your sense of humour, David!

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive