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Why Evan Ferguson must start against France in Euro qualifier

Brighton striker catches the eye as he offers Ireland a new attacking threat

Evan Ferguson© PA

John BrennanBelfast Telegraph

Evan Ferguson was the focus of so much attention at the Aviva Stadium for this 3-2 friendly win over Latvia.

An 18-year-old, starting his first international match, and a teenager who is scoring goals regularly for Premier League Brighton.

His name was cheered loudly when the teams were announced, and even louder again when he was taken off in the 73rd minute having scored and played really well.

The first big night he has had in the Irish jersey, but surely not the last. Here’s how his night unfolded:

6mins – If Carlsberg did meaningful first touches as an Ireland starter! Ferguson didn’t score the goal, he won’t even get the assist, but he controlled a pass from midfield with his first touch and switched the ball to Ireland’s right wing with his second. From there, Will Smallbone found Callum O’Dowda’s forehead for a fine opener.

13mins – Again, the Brighton man’s control of a skidding ball on a wet Dublin evening was exemplary as he brought team-mates into the play.

17mins – Ferguson gets his first Irish goal, this time as a ‘fox-in-the-box’, finishing from five yards out after Michael Obafemi had kept the ball in play at the back stick.

24mins – The young striker forces a corner for Ireland with direct running at the Latvian defence. It has been a first half tour-de-force so far.

45 mins – It couldn’t last and it didn’t as the teenager’s effort rather resembled Ireland’s, with the team losing control of the game and Will Smallbone emerging as Ireland’s best player. But it wasn’t Evan Ferguson that Stephen Kenny needed to talk to at half-time – he had to get a defence sorted out that was again conceding goals the way they always seem to concede – from long-range shots.

53mins – Ferguson shows well for a ball on the Irish left wing and cuts inside, only to blaze his shot miles over the crossbar, picking up a knock from a Latvian defender in the process.

56mins –This time he drifts out onto Ireland’s right wing and sets up a shooting chance that Matt Doherty puts wide. So far it has been a complete centre-forward performance from the man from Bettystown.

67mins – A storming run through the middle almost sees Ferguson get in for a shot after a one-two with new boy Mikey Johnston. But a Latvian boot gets in the way.

73mins – Ferguson’s night ends as he makes way for Troy Parrott, a player who was the ‘great green hope’ of Irish football not so long ago. And maybe there’s a warning for the Brighton player in that.

Evan has had a fine night, a first start, a first goal and the promise of so much more to come.

He has to start on Monday against France, 18 years of age or not. Right now, he’s the best attacking option we have, and that means he must start against the World Cup Finalists.

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