Irish need a miracle in Paris

Rep of Ireland 0 France 1

Shortly before half-time on Saturday evening, the Croke Park crowd howled with delight as a dithering Nicolas Anelka, starved of options, laboured in possession for so long that he was pickpocketed by Robbie Keane. You could say that the moment summed up a first half where Ireland succeeded in rattling their visitors. The bigger picture, however, is that the vignette goes some way towards explaining the French victory secured by the boot of Anelka and an unfortunate deflection off Sean St Ledger.

To contain Les Bleus Ireland needed an energetic defensive effort that was ultimately unsustainable. An Irish team operating a rigid system encountered opponents with an open mind. Anelka may have cut a frustrated figure before the interval, but he kept coming back until the 72nd-minute moment when, finally, there was no pursuer in sight. The ricochet was cruel for the hosts and, particularly, the impressive St Ledger. Yet there was nothing fortuitous about the build-up.

When Kevin Kilbane gave the ball away, Lassana Diarra, Yoann Gourcuff and Anelka combined rapidly to create the space. There were similar passages of play in the second half until the visitors got their reward.

Is this over? The simple reality is that Ireland will have to achieve their best ever result on opposition soil to turn it around in Paris on Wednesday. There is no precedent.

Nevertheless, Giovanni Trapattoni can draw comfort from the fact that when his side got enough bodies into the box they found France nervous at the back. Between now and Wednesday, the Italian must decide if that knowledge will alter his approach.

After all, he can no longer claim that his team are unbeaten in competitive action. The Italian stressed that the play-off required extra from what was produced in the qualification group. That next level requires being more than just difficult to beat.

"The one thing we didn't want to do is concede a goal and we did that," said a deflated Robbie Keane. "We knew it was going to be tough on Wednesday, but it's going to be tougher now."

The match was frenetic in the opening stages with Damien Duff assuming the unlikely role of aggressor with a crunching tackle on Bacary Sagna after 20 seconds.

For under-fire France coach Raymond Domenech, who later confirmed that he rowed with his captain Thierry Henry in the team hotel beforehand, it was a disconcerting period. Anelka and Gourcuff exchanged angry words amid a frenzy of Irish tackles.

Ireland should have gone ahead in the 24th minute. An innocuous long ball prompted chaos as Kevin Doyle rose to flick Robbie Keane into space. The Irish captain was unable to clip the ball over the advancing Hugo Lloris who could only divert the ball into the path of Liam Lawrence. Lawrence seemed to be guilty of an embarrassing miss but replays proved that Patrice Evra had somehow diverted the goalbound poke to safety.

After half-time France imposed themselves with Lassana Diarra gaining a foothold. Anelka and Henry floated around freely as Ireland's battery power wore down.

Much hope had rested on Ireland's set pieces but they forced only three corners and never won a free-kick in a dangerous area. For all their frailty under aerial assault, the French rearguard, as Eric Abidal suggested mid week, were clever enough in terms of staying on their feet.

Anelka's goal forced Trapattoni to make three substitutions but there was little time for Leon Best, Aiden McGeady or Stephen Hunt to make a real impact. A howler from Abidal did allow Best and Keane to combine for Glenn Whelan's last-ditch attempt to restore parity but that effort was denied by Lloris.

"I thought Glenn would score, it was bad luck," reflected Keane. "Hopefully we can get some of it on Wednesday. We know it has to be something special but we're not talking about a normal game here. We're talking about qualifying for the World Cup. If we don't believe we can win it, then we won't."

The problem for Ireland is that sometimes belief and spirit is simply not enough. The dream is slipping away.

Republic of Ireland: Given; O'Shea, St Ledger, Dunne, Kilbane, Lawrence (McGeady 76), Whelan, Andrews, Duff (Hunt, 80), Doyle (Best, 72), Keane. Substitutes not used: Joe Murphy (gk), McShane, Kelly, Gibson.

France: Lloris; Sagna, Gallas, Abidal, Evra, L Diarra, A Diarra, Gourcuff, Anelka, Gignac (Malouda, 90), Henry. Substitutes not used: Mandanda (gk), Escude, Govou, Benzema, Sissoko, Squillaci.

Referee: F Brych (Germany).

Final countdown: Qualifiers' details

Qualified for finals

hosts South Africa. Africa Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon.

Asia Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea. Europe Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland.

South America Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina. North, Central America and caribbean United States, Mexico and Honduras.

n play-offs

Asia/Oceania play-off winner New Zealand.

to be completed on wednesday

Uruguay (1) v Costa Rica (0) ko 23.00

France (1) v Rep of Ireland (0) 20.00

Ukraine (0) v Greece (0) 18.00

Slovenia (1) v Russia (2) 19.45

Bosnia (0) v Portugal (1) 19.45

Algeria v Egypt (one-off match to decide winner of African Group C) 17.30

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?