France v Republic of Ireland – Stade de Lyon at 14:00 live on ITV
The Republic of Ireland will be looking to avenge the extra time defeat against France in their world cup play off in 2009, at the Stade de Lyon on Sunday. Ireland won away in normal time on that day, before Thierry Henry’s famous handball, dubbed the ‘Hand of Frog’ (see it here) kept the ball in play, assisting William Gallas to break Irish hearts. Henry has since apologised, but there is no doubt it will give this last 16 knockout match a bit more excitement.
This will be Ireland’s first appearance in the knockout stages of a European Championship, failing to make it out of the group in their two previous tournaments. They crashed out of Euro 2012 suffering 3 defeats in the group stages and were the underdogs again this year having been drawn against Italy, Belgium and Sweden.
A draw against Sweden and heavy 3-0 defeat against Belgium meant they had to beat Italy in their final group match. Italy had already secured a place in the last 16 and topped the group, as a result Antonio Conte fielded a weakened side, with 9 changes, but Ireland still went into the match as underdogs.
Ireland stepped up and put in a brave performance, solid at the back and quick on the attack, creating 11 chances before Robbie Brady headed home a superb ball in from Wes Hoolahan. It was nothing more than they deserved.
They now face the hosts and pre-tournament favourties, France, who despite topping their group, winning 2, drawing 1, haven’t impressed so far.
On paper the French attack is one of, if not the best in the finals. Despite scoring an average of 1.33 goals per game, they have under-performed and will need to improve if they are to justify their position as favourties. There were question marks over their defence, but have kept 2 clean sheets, conceding just once.
France have created 48 chances, the 5th highest in the tournament, but just 23% of those were on target. They failed to break down an average Swiss defence and needed every minute against Albania, scoring twice after the 89th minute. They also needed a last minute winner against Romania. There is no doubt they have the ability to tear teams apart, but it just doesn’t seem to be working for them at the minute and Didier Deschamps still doesn’t seem to know who to pick or what formation to play.
The hosts are the better side here, there is no question but they haven’t been at their best, far from it. They are rightfully favourites, but based on their 3 performances, their price of 1.45 is far too short. I do expect them to win this match in 90 minutes but I can’t back it with any confidence at that price.
Ireland will need to rely on their defence to give them a chance on Sunday and I think they will make it very difficult for France. However, they gave everything against Italy and looked tired towards the end, I think that will take it’s toll. Ireland have been under-estimated here but I expect fatigue to set in, in the second half.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Republic of Ireland +0.5 first half at 1.82
Prices correct at time of writing.
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