The Republic of Ireland launch their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with the toughest of fixtures against World Cup finalists France on Monday evening.
Stephen Kenny’s men will have to be at their best to stand any chance of denying the French another three points to go with those they collected with the minimum of fuss against the Netherlands on Friday night.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game at the Aviva Stadium.
Among the notable absentees from Kenny’s starting line-up for the 3-2 friendly victory over Latvia on Wednesday was Burnley midfielder Josh Cullen.
The 26-year-old has become a fixture in Kenny’s midfield engine room having prospered at club level under the watchful eye of manager Vincent Kompany at both Anderlecht and now Turf Moor, and his ability to both protect his defenders and bring the men ahead of him into play will prove key in the face of the sternest of tests.
Teenage Brighton striker Evan Ferguson scored the first of what he, Kenny and the whole of Ireland will hope will be many goals for his country against the Latvians to confirm his recent blistering run of form.
His lack of senior international experience suggests he may, initially at least, be kept in reserve, but the temptation to hand him a role at some point must surely have grown as a result of his efforts in midweek.
The long and the short of it
Whether Caoimhin Kelleher or Gavin Bazunu gets the nod in goal on Monday evening, they will hope a worrying trend does not continue. Of the 23 goals the Republic have conceded since the start of 2021, nine of them – including the two missiles unleashed by Roberts Uldrikis and Arturs Zjuzins as Latvia fought back from 2-0 down to level – have come from outside the box.
Kylian me softly
Much of the talk in the build-up to the game has centred around newly-appointed France skipper Kylian Mbappe, who plundered a hat-trick in December’s World Cup final but still ended up with a loser’s medal.
The chatter has simply intensified as a result of the two goals he added to his tally in Friday’s 4-0 demolition of a weakened Netherlands side and Ireland will have a job on their hands to keep him quiet in Dublin.
2009 and all that
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Weeks after Ireland and France last met in Paris in May 2018, Didier Deschamps’ men lifted the World Cup; their previous encounter in Lyon in the last 16 at Euro 2016 proved to be a stepping stone on the hosts’ road to the final.
However, for Ireland, the fixture rekindles memories of the night at the Stade de France in November 2009 when Thierry Henry’s unspotted handball in the build-up to William Gallas’ decisive extra-time goal cost Giovanni Trapattoni’s side their chance to make it to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.