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Martin O’Neill says Ireland waited too long to press for equaliser against France

O’Neill refers to infamous 5-1 defeat against Denmark in his post match analysis.

Benjamin Pavard of France, left, celebrates with team-mate Kylian Mbappé after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Championship Qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and France at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Former Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill suggested Stephen Kenny could have shown a little more attacking ambition as his side were narrowly beaten 1-0 by France in Dublin.

Stunning late saves from France keeper Mike Maignan denied Ireland a point in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier, as Benjamin Pavard’s sweet strike edged World Cup finalists France to a narrow victory.

Speaking to Viaplay, O’Neill reflected on his decision to ‘throw caution to the wind’ in the infamous 2018 World Cup play-off against Denmark, as he pressed for goals in the second half in a game and saw his side go down to a 5-1 defeat.

"Why did we have a grandstand finish? I think, perhaps, maybe throw caution to the wind a little earlier, that’s my honest opinion,” he stated.

"For instance, in my game against Denmark, never to be forgotten. We are 2-1 down at half-time and we have to score two goals in the second half.

"Really, the side that I had in the first half would not have been constructive enough to score two goals.

"I took a chance by throwing on Wes Hoolahan and Aidan McGeady, knowing we would lose a lot physically and the next goal was going to be crucial. We concede it and then fall, but I don’t mind.

"It doesn’t really matter if you conceded three or four. When you are trying to qualify for a competition, you have to take a gamble at some stage or another.

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"The substitutions that we were made we fine and we had a grandstand finish. Maybe (the changes could have been made) ten minutes earlier, who knows.”

Former Ireland defender Damien Delaney suggest the near misses need to be converted into successes for boss Kenny soon, with Ireland facing another uphill battle to qualify for a major tournament.

"It depends on which prism you choose to look at this,” Delaney told Virgin Media Sport.

"We are very good at valiant defeats. We are very good at getting at backs to the walls jobs, 5-4-1, very defensive and throw the kitchen sink at it late on.

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"We very nearly got something out of this game, but I don’t think this is the kind of night when Stephen Kenny will be judged.

"It’s the nights when we were told we are getting a new Ireland. Against Latvia, Armenia and Greece away in June. That is where he’s going to be judged.

"France were in control of that game for 85 minutes and when we got to the end at 1-0, we thought we may as well have a go at it. That script is written, we know what it is. June in Greece is where he is going to be judged.

"I was a little bit excited when I woke up this morning having listened to him yesterday and I thought we were going to get something different.

"I thought we were going to get us being a bit more adventurous, taking the game to the French, not taking a backward step. The direct quote was I’d rather not die a slow death. It was very slow for 85 minutes.

"I’m not disparaging the team. The team were brilliant. The players executed the game brilliantly, but I was expecting something different here. We had a lot of possession, but we won the ball back in good areas and went backwards, backwards, backwards.

"France are happy to let you have the ball and we were very good apart from the Pavard goal.

"We saw nothing new. We are very good at that. We have been doing it for years. We have got results against teams as good as France. I thought we’d show a little more advanture.

"To reiterate, tonight is not where Stephen gets judged. Greece is June is.”


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