Aurelien Tchouameni’s superb strike set France up for a comfortable 2-0 win over Ireland in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday as Les Bleus took a big step towards securing a spot at next year’s finals in Germany.
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Real Madrid midfielder Tchouameni opened the scoring with a stunning first-time hit into the far corner in the 19th minute on a steamy night in Paris, and substitute Marcus Thuram increased the lead just after half-time.
Last year’s beaten World Cup finalists have a maximum 15 points and have yet to concede a goal after five matches in qualifying Group B, which they lead by a massive nine points from both the Netherlands and Greece.
“It is an important step. We have enjoyed a perfect campaign so far but we are not going to rest on our laurels,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
The Dutch, who have played just three games, beat Greece 3-0 in Eindhoven and are favourites to qualify with France.
Ireland, with just three points after four games, will surely need to beat the Netherlands at home on Sunday to maintain a realistic chance of going through.
“I can’t fault my players. I thought they gave everything,” said Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.
“They were beaten by a better team for sure. France were excellent overall and for a lot of the players it was the best team they have ever played against.”
Playing the 900th game in their history, this was France at something like their formidable best as their athleticism and physicality, allied with far superior technical ability, gave Ireland next to no chance at the Parc des Princes.
Deschamps gave Lucas Hernandez his first cap since the defender suffered a serious knee injury at last year’s World Cup, while new PSG signing Ousmane Dembele started on the right wing and Olivier Giroud spearheaded their attack.
Ireland, meanwhile, had Adam Idah of Norwich City leading an attack deprived of teenage prodigy Evan Ferguson due to injury.
Giroud limps off
France went ahead when Kylian Mbappe laid a ball off for Tchouameni, just outside the penalty box in the inside-left position, to score with a magnificent first-time strike into the far corner.
It was a goal reminiscent of his ferocious strike against England in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, won 2-1 by France.
The home side then suffered a blow as Giroud was forced to limp off on 26 minutes with an ankle injury that will surely, at the very least, keep him out of Tuesday’s friendly away to Germany in Dortmund.
Inter Milan forward Thuram took his place and set up captain Mbappe to score through the legs of goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu six minutes before half-time.
However, the goal was disallowed for an offside against Thuram, depriving Mbappe of a 41st France goal which would have seen him equal Michel Platini‘s tally for France.
The hosts’ second came three minutes after the restart as Thuram fired a loose ball into the roof of the net from close range after Mbappe’s shot was blocked by John Egan.
Moments after that came the visitors’ best chance as a Chiedozie Ogbene header from point-blank range was palmed away by Mike Maignan.
Dembele later struck the post and Ireland could be relieved not to have lost by a wider margin.
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