FRA 2:1 IRE – a courageous performance from the Irish wasn’t quite enough to upset the hosts in a remarkable last 16 encounter on a glorious evening at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. For a long period it looked as if The Boys in Green could pull off a surprising victory in extraordinary fashion as an out of sorts French side struggled to get going. In a breathtaking opening to the game, a barnstorming run forward from Burnley Football Club fullback Stephen Ward resulted in a dangerous ball across the French penalty area. Adil Rami slipped and allowed Daryl Murphy to bundle the ball into the path of Shane Long, who was clumsily tripped from behind by Juventus man Paul Labile Pogba – a clear penalty! Ireland’s hero from the Italy game, Norwich City FC‘s Robbie Brady, stepped up to drill the ball in off the post to put the Irish one up. Delirium amongst the sea of green in the stadium! The expected French wave of relentless pressure failed to materialise as Martin O’Neill‘s plucky side worked their socks off to chase down every ball and block every shot on goal in the first half. Ireland could have found themselves further in front but Shane Duffy mistimed his header from 8 yards out. The French predictably stepped up a gear after the break and turned the game on its head in 3 minutes just before the hour mark – a teasing ball into the box from Bacary Sagna was majestically headed beyond Darren Randolph by Atlético de Madrid‘s diminutive striker Antoine Griezmann, who then put the French in front with a low drive from the edge of the area moments later. Credit to Didier Deschamps who changed both personnel and tactics at half time allowing Griezmann to find more space in and around the Irish box. The Irish refused to give in, however, and good running from James McClean down the left saw him free in the French penalty area, but his square ball couldn’t find Murphy who could so easily have equalised. The tempo increased dramatically as the game stretched. Griezmann was sent clear by Olivier Giroud only for the French starlet to be hauled down by a desperate challenge from Shane Duffy, who was given his marching orders. It then became increasingly difficult for the Irish to find a way back into the game. The French set up camp in the Irish half for the last quarter of the game, barraging Randolph’s goal in waves of attempts. Substitute André-Pierre Gignac thumped the ball against Randolph’s bar with a superb curling effort; the Irish stopper then making good saves from Tigres UANL striker Gignac and PSG – Paris Saint-Germain‘s Blaise Matuidi. Les Bleus saw out the game comfortably, progressing in unconvincing fashion once again buoyed on by their incredible home support. The Irish go home after a stout-hearted performance that will earn them a great deal of respect and affinity in the footballing world. They gave their everything but just missed that slither of luck they were always going to need at this stage of the tournament.