French media brace themselves for avenging Irish

Papers full of praise for both sets of Ireland fans in France

The front cover of L’Equipe on Thursday morning featured Robbie Brady celebrating his winning goal against Italy. Photograph:    James Crombie/Inpho

The front cover of L’Equipe on Thursday morning featured Robbie Brady celebrating his winning goal against Italy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Friday’s front-page headline in French sports daily L’Équipe said it all: Ireland wants its revenge.

Sunday’s Euro 2016 knockout tie, a rematch of the 2010 World Cup play-off, was always going to be billed in such a way. And in case anyone had forgotten how Thierry Henry’s handball in 2009 had helped France to qualify at Ireland’s expense, on Friday evening L’Équipe’s TV channel re-broadcast that infamous second-leg match in Paris.

L’Équipe’s extensive reflection on the game in print even included an interview with Manuela Spinelli, the translator for ex-Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. She said that a win on Sunday in Lyon would represent a “resurrection” for Irish football after November 18th, 2009, a night on which she suggested it felt like someone had died in the visiting camp.

A day previously, alongside a picture of Henry handling the ball, a L’Équipe headline had noted that Ireland had “an old score to settle”.

Payment

Meanwhile, there was also an article about the seven-figure payment the Football Association of Ireland had received from world governing body FIFA after that 2009 tie. It was entitled “The price of silence: €5M”.

Focus on the Irish team has followed incessant coverage of the Irish fans. On Friday Le Parisien once again declared that supporters of “the two Irelands” had been the best in the tournament. The visitors’ seemingly infectious cheerfulness was credited with helping people quickly move on from ugly clashes involving English and Russian fans in Marseille.

“Through their kindness and their enthusiasm, they made you forget about the excesses of the hooligans,” Le Parisien said.

Vincent Duluc struck a similar tone in L’Équipe: “If one of the two Irelands didn’t qualify, we would have surely asked permission to borrow their supporters.”

As for Sunday’s match, he warned that while Euro 2016 hosts France are clear favourites, Martin O’Neill’s side are no pushovers.

“It will therefore be necessary to rise to the challenge on the good pitch of the Parc OL, while in the stands the Bleus’ supporters will be faced with an even bigger challenge: to sing as loudly as the Irish.”

Before Robbie Brady’s late goal against Italy on Wednesday had sealed Ireland’s passage to the last 16, France had been fully expecting to face Northern Ireland. So much so, as France assistant manager Guy Stephan admitted, that they had spent Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday analysing Northern Ireland games.

Fighting spirit

The change of opponent has not altered much in the eyes of most French pundits, who still believe that France will advance to the quarter-finals.

Irish heart and fighting spirit were often mentioned and Roy Keane and Robbie Keane continue to fascinate, although references to Wes Hoolahan as the “Irish Messi” have also made it into the local press.

The most useful insight from a French point of view came from Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Mecha Bazdarevic, whose side were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Ireland in their Euro 2016 play-off.

“Everyone knows that the main qualities of the Irish are their determination, their generosity [of effort] and their aggression,” he told L’Équipe.

“They are the things which you have to be ready to respond to when you meet them.”

William Gallas, who scored the extra-time winner after Henry’s handball, also tipped Ireland to make life difficult for France.

“This team will be out for revenge,” he told L’Équipe.

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