Tom Simmonds reflects on the best moments from the Republic of Ireland’s parting match at Euro 2016.
1. Ireland’s build up play to create the situation which led to Paul Pogba’s mad foul on Shane Long to concede the early penalty which Robbie Brady converted was Alpha effectiveness. When you can make one of the world’s best players do something like that, you can claim a tactical victory.
2. Ireland’s first half performance, in which they managed to keep the hosts at arm’s length, is one which they can look back on with huge pride and use as a platform on which to base future aspirations.
3. Darren Randolph’s two brilliant second half saves to deny Blaise Matuidi might seal him a place in the popular consciousness for something other than being Mr. Rochelle Humes before she got together with Marvin.
4. Ireland’s fans, heavily outnumbered, much to Martin O’Neill’s irritation, made themselves heard above the din that the French hordes were creating at certain points. A defiant “Fields of Athenry” towards the end was just one example of this. A bravura performance that matched that of their players.
5. Brady’s goal means that Norwich players have now scored more goals (3) at Euro 2016 than Barcelona players (stuck on 2) at the time of writing.
6. The ‘if only’ moment shortly before France’s equalizer – had Hugo Lloris not got to James McClean’s cross before Shane Long after a lovely Ireland move, could they have come back from 2-1 down? We’ll never know.
7. Jeff Hendrick became surely one of the first players ever to play in an international tournament to pick up a pair of bookings for kicking the ball away. This time, he did it after being awarded a free-kick. I’d hate to see what he does when he doesn’t get his own way!
8. The red-carded Shane Duffy, who was superb against Italy and up until his sending off, will have Ireland’s defeat in proper perspective after narrowly cheating death six years ago after rupturing the blood supply to his liver.
9. Lyon is widely credited with being the gastronomic capital of France. The savvy Ireland fans who have hung around to take advantage of this and the plentiful Beaujolais wines the region produces instead of turning for home will still be feeling like winners right about now.
10. The Irish FA will be viewing the Brits of Irish heritage rushing to get an Irish passport in the wake of the Brexit vote as a possible future boon. They will be hoping that some of them will have children that are useful at football that they can call up in 18-20 years’ time – nothing wrong with hoping!
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