Republic of Ireland under-21s 0 Brazil under 22-s 2
While gracious in defeat to a sizzling Brazilian side, Stephen Kenny couldn't help but wonder how much a part fatigue played in yesterday's Toulon Tournament semi-final defeat.
The former Dundalk boss achieved a galaxy of feats in his League of Ireland career, but usurping Brazil's Under-23 team heading to Tokyo next year for the defence of their Olympic title would have exceeded them all.
Causing such an upset, he insists, might have stood a chance had there been more recovery time.
In the end, the senior manager-in-waiting lamented the rigours of four games in nine days catching up with his youngsters in Vitrolles.
Granted, Brazil had navigated the same schedule yet, with their passage from the group guaranteed after two facile victories, squad rotation was available to André Soares Jardine.
They would even afford for Manchester City star Douglas Silva to ping a third-minute penalty wide. The Samba Boys were worthy winners, thanks to a goal early in each half from Paulinho and Matheus Cunha.
Connor Ronan came closest to equalising for the Irish just before the break, a miss Kenny described as the turning point of the contest.
The Boys in Green will meet Mexico in Saturday’s play-off, a curtain raiser for the final between Brazil and Japan.
“We all know Brazil have a superior side but it wasn’t an even challenge,” said Kenny, whose unbeaten record in the under-21 post ends in his fifth match.
“Three of our four games were played in the afternoon and Brazil were able to make a team full of changes for their final group match.
“That gave their first-choice players almost a week of rest. Our lads weren’t fresh at all.
“We would have given Brazil a better game with adequate recovery.”
When Conor Masterson floored Matheus Cunha six yards out after only three minutes, his former housemate at Liverpool was sent the wrong way from the penalty but it veered wide.
Dara O’Shea nodded over from a corner for Ireland but the exquisite passing of Brazil soon carved them open.
Paulinho, the Bayer Leverkusen winger, was allowed drift away from Jayson Molumby on 15 minutes to get a clear sight at goal from 25 yards.
Though his shot didn’t carry much venom, it struck a divot on the way to deceive Kelleher.
Then came Ireland's best chance to level. Darragh Leahy's cross from the left drifted all the way to fellow full-back Lee O'Connor. The Manchester United defender squared for Ronan, who blazed his shot over from 10 yards.
It would prove a crucial moment as Ireland conceded a soft second within 100 seconds of the restart.
Paulinho was the fore again by ambling in from the left, and his lay-off allowed Matheus Cunha to swivel and tuck a low shot through a thicket of Irish defenders and beyond a static Kelleher.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O'Connor (Manchester United), D O'Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (Unattached), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Brighton), C Coventry (West Ham United); S Mallon (Sheffield United), C Ronan (Wolves), A Connolly (Brighton); A Idah (Norwich City).
Subs: S Power (Norwich City) for Mallon (54 mins), J Taylor (Barnet) for Ronan (65), A Drinan (Waterford) for Idah (83), J Barrett (Reading) for Connolly (84).
BRAZIL: Ivan; Emerson (Guga, 56 mins), Iago, Murilo, Lynaco; Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique (Lucas Fernandes, 78 mins); Antony (Wendel, 56 mins), Pedrinho; Paulinho; Matheus Cunha.
Referee: M Enrique Santander (Mexico)