France v Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifying play-off second leg, November 18, 2009
Nicolas Anelkaâ€™s deflected effort to put France one-up at halftime of this tie has put the Republic of Ireland in a tight spot and they will need to produce one of their all-time great performances to progress past Les Bleus in Paris.
At halftime it appeared that many of the pre-match predictions before the clash at Croke Park would come to fruition. During the first 45, Ireland harried the French stars and there was little to choose between the two sides. If Trappatoniâ€™s team could bundle home a set-piece, it looked like Ireland would travel to France in a good position.
Whilst Raymond Domenech has received little to no credit for the second half performance, there is no doubt France played with much greater purpose after the break. Theirry Henry (13/2 to score a brace), Nicolas Anelka (7/4 to score & France win) and Yoann Gourcuff (13/2 to score first) all came into the game and had Andre-Pierre Gignac not spurned a good chance, Les Bleus would be well set for South Africa.
Ireland did create chances towards the end of the first leg, forcing Hugo Lloris into a couple of saves but failed to truly test the susceptible French defence at set pieces. Throughout the match they won just three corners and didnâ€™t claim a free-kick in a threatening position to make this particular strength count.
It is difficult to get away from the fact that despite their wacky manager, this French team possess a huge amount of talent and if they do play at the World Cup will be one of the favourites to reach a third final in four attempts. This is best illustrated by the fact that all of their starting line-up at Croke Park play Champions League football whilst only John Oâ€™Shea for Ireland plays in the premier club competition in European football.
In the post-match aftermath of the first leg there has been some fighting talk from the likes of Shay Given and Robbie Keane (15/8 to score) and also an explanation of the melee that occurred at the final whistle. Both Keith Andrews (12/1 to score) and Richard Dunne (33/1 to score) threatened Lassana Diarra after the Real Madrid midfielder allegedly told the Blackburn man: â€œF*** off, Irish P****. You are out.â€
Whilst the passion showed by the Irish throughout the encounter and against the diminutive midfielder will be seen as a sign that they havenâ€™t given up, it is a tall order to win in the Stade de France. Trappatoniâ€™s side will have to show much more attacking ambition and could leave themselves open to the likes of Henry and Anelka.( 7/4 that either Henry or Anelka will score first.)
The veteran Italian arguably should have picked Celtic winger Aiden McGeady (16/1 to score last) for the home match and he may now be called upon in France. The likes of Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane have a lot of character but will need to produce the game of their lives if they are to progress.
The French appear a lot more relaxed about the tie now and Domenechâ€™s only worry is who to replace Eric Abidal with in central defence after the Barcelona defender pulled out through injury. The leading contenders are Julien Escude and Sebastien Squillaci, teammates at Sevilla. (France are 10/11 to keep a clean sheet.)
On the evidence of the first leg, there is a major quality difference between these two sides and it may take more than â€œthe luck of the Irishâ€ to send Trappatoni and his boys to the World Cup.
101gg predicts: France 3 â€“ Republic of Ireland 0 (10/1)
Full match odds here.