Sports Desk, Mar 27 (EFE).- A powerful long-range strike early in the second half by right back Benjamin Pavard was all the scoring visiting France needed in a 1-0 victory Monday night over Ireland in Euro 2024 qualifying.
Three days after pummeling the Netherlands 4-0 at Stade de France, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe and the rest of the Les Blues attack were unable to showcase their normal brilliance at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, in large part due to a well-organized Irish defense.
With the game scoreless at the intermission, the home fans had high hopes of extracting at least one point out of their team’s first Group B match.
But a poorly executed pass by midfielder Josh Cullen proved costly when Pavard intercepted the ball and launched a rocket from 23 meters (75 feet) out that sailed out of the reach of goalie Gavin Bazunu, clipped the underside of the crossbar and entered the opposing goal.
That score changed the complexion of the contest, with the decibel level of the Irish fans going down a notch and the home team forced to take more risks in their bid to seek out the equalizer.
France found more openings in the Irish final third in the last half-hour of the contest, with Bazunu forced to save one shot by substitute Moussa Diaby in the 69th minute then a long-range strike by Adrien Rabiot six minutes later.
The strong goalkeeping kept Ireland’s hopes alive, and the home side nearly drew level in the 85th minute on a shot on goal by substitute Alan Browne that forced French net minder Mike Maignan into action.
With the crowd of 57,000 ready to explode, the Boys in Green then produced their best chance of the night at the 90-minute mark on a powerful, well-placed header by right back Nathan Collins that Maignan superbly kept out of the corner of the goal with his fully outstretched right arm.
France now have six points in Group B, while Greece is currently in second place with three points.
The Netherlands also have three points, although with a worse goal differential, after defeating Gibraltar 3-0 on Monday in Rotterdam.
The top two teams in the group will directly qualify for the final tournament. EFE