Competition: UEFA European Championship Qualifiers, Group B
Date: 27 March 2023
Result: Ireland 0 -1 France
Tickets: As part of my season ticket, roughly €28 per game (not including non-international extras)
Game/ Experience Rating: ☆☆☆☆
The Game: Ireland are improving rapidly at the moment, at least in terms of performances, and despite hte loss, it’s fair to say that this performance against recent World Cup Finalists France exceeded almost all expectations. The arrival of Evan Ferguson in the first team is the latest thing to get Ireland fans fired up, but it was an all round performance here that rarely saw Ireland outclassed, despite the French being fresh off a 4-0 hammering of the Netherlands.
In fact, star man Kylian Mbappe, booed throughout, barely got into the game, often dropping back into the France defensive line to collect the ball. As is sadly typical of Ireland, the goal was both from a long way out, and came directly from a defensive error, as Cullen gifted Ben Pavard the ball around 25 yards from goal and he slammed home in a moment that could almost have been called against the run of play.
Ireland had lots of great build up play and briefly threatened to equalise with a couple of late headers, one of which was absolutely magnificently saved by Mike Maignan, a save that made the front cover of L’Equipe the following morning as the French press admitted their side had been a little fortunate.
The catch phrase of Ireland fans online recently has been ‘green shoots’, and despite a loss that almost everyone saw as inevitable before kick off, there were lots of green shoots here.
The ground: I’ve been disappointed in Ireland fans recently – there’s a bit of a big game mentality going on, I think, and the atmosphere at friendlies has been shoddy to the point of dull. That wasn’t the case for this, which saw the Aviva light up as Ireland went toe-to-toe with the French in front of a sell out crowd. It’s games like this that give Ireland fans their reputation. I’m not convinced it’s always deserved, but at times the Aviva atmosphere is nothing short of wonderful.
Extras: One of those games where I break my usual rule and grab an ‘I was there’ programme, plus a spare one for my son’s friend to keep, too. The little lad got a half and half scalf and loves it. He’s nine, it’s allowed.
Assorted asides: With, potentially, 15 years of being fronted by Evan Ferguson on the horizon, are Ireand on the way back? I find it hard to see tournament qualifcation this time around, personally, but it also doesn’t seem a millon miles away any more. Perhaps the 2026 World Cup, with a bit of luck?
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 8. Home wins: 4 Draws: 3 Away wins: 1
Goals: 21. Home goals: 13. Away goals: 8. Goals per game: 2.63