Antoine Griezmann (58th, 61st minutes) struck in quick succession in the second half of the entertaining second round clash after Robbie Brady (2nd) converted from the penalty spot to hand Ireland an early lead. Brady’s goal was Ireland’s second against France since October 1981.
France are now unbeaten in their last 16 games at major tournaments on home soil. They have won 14 of those while two matches have ended in draws.
The ‘Les Bleus’ will face either England or Iceland in the quarter-finals, but will miss the services of Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante, both of whom will be suspended.
The hosts have not exactly been outstanding in the group matches. But the nightmare start forced them to go on the offensive and they produced their best performance so far in the tournament.
Ireland had ended their campaign in the group stage with a 1-0 victory over strong title contenders Italy and they set out with the objective of grabbing another unlikely upset. This was the first meeting between the sides since Thierry Henry’s handball during a World Cup qualifying match in 2009 sent France on their way to the 2010 World Cup at the expense of the Irish.
Early on, Shane Long was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Paul Pogba and Brady, who plays for English Championship side Norwich City, stepped forward to dispatch the resultant penalty into the lower right corner.
The early setback forced the hosts to go on the offensive in search of the equaliser. They enjoyed better possession throughout the game, but some sturdy defending by Ireland kept them at bay in the first half. Deschamps made an attacking change at the break, replacing N’Golo Kante with 20-year-old sensation Kingsley Coman. That proved to be decisive as the recent Bayen Munich recruit provided an extra cutting edge to the French forwardline.
The equaliser seemed almost imminent as the French continued to chip away at the Ireland defence. An attempt from distance by Pogba flew just wide of the post, another by Blaise Matuidi was palmed away by Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph. Griezmann finally broke the desparate Irish resistance with a couple of superb strikes in a space of three minutes.
Bacary Sagna made a powerful run down the right before whipping in a cross which was met with a excellent header by Griezmann.
Just three minutes later, Olivier Giroud used his strength to head down Rami’s cross from the deep to set up Griezmann, who surged into the area, dribbled past Randolph and found the bottom-right corner with a precise left-footed finish.
Later, a sliding Griezmann missed out a hattrick by mere inches when he could not a curving cross into the six-yard box by Gignac with Randolph virtually at his mercy.