France face Ireland in the last 16 of the European Championship on Sunday. It is the first meeting between the countries since the hugely controversial World Cup play-off in 2009 when Les Bleus qualified courtesy of a William Gallas goal created by Henry’s handball. Deschamps, however, believes the host nation have more to fear from Ireland’s competitive spirit than any revenge mission at Stade de Lyon.
“The Republic of Ireland showed great solidarity and fighting spirit in their side, we often talk about that,” the France coach said. “They go all the way, don’t think twice, it’s almost a genetic quality the British teams have. They are ready to go into battle as a unit and will fight all the way for each other. That’s why I know we are going to have a tricky match tomorrow.
“They’ve got a lot of heart and work very hard but not just that. They have good footballers in that team. The majority play in the Premier League and are used to playing against top sides. They are able to play the ball on the deck even though they tend to play a more direct game. Their forwards are suited to picking up the second ball. Whelan, Hendrick, Hoolahan, McCarthy, Brady, Shane Long all play consistently at Premier League level so they know what top level football is all about.”
Deschamps was asked what significance Henry’s handball will have on the last 16 fixture. “Almost none at all to me,” he replied. “I’m not going to use it, I haven’t used it, and I’m not sure Martin O’Neill will talk about it either. It was six years ago. There is no revenge in football. It was six years ago and the only thing we can change is what happens tomorrow. I don’t think this feeling exists in top level football unless you play the same team three days later. I don’t think it will have an influence whatsoever.”
The France captain, Hugo Lloris, believes Ireland will have added incentive in Lyon but it will be drawn purely from the prospect of defeating the host nation. “I don’t know if the Irish are necessarily out for revenge,” he said of the World Cup play-off. “That’s history. This is the European Championship at home and we are the team to beat. As we’ve seen in the group games, the opposition have added motivation to bring down the host nation and that will be an aim for the Irish but we are preparing very calmly for the game. We need to be ready for the battle.”
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