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Ireland look to take huge evolutionary step

Back in December, after the Republic had wrapped up their successful UEFA Nations League campaign with a 6-1 hammering of Northern Ireland in Belfast, Louise Quinn talked tactics.

“It’s about keeping it for slightly longer periods of time, getting that control when we are in possession, knowing when to turn them – do we go out, do we go out to go in?” she said.

“This is modern football now. It’s play, play, play and for us, we want to move forward with that.”

Quinn was the latest in a line of senior players to extol the virtues of a more expansive game.

Vera Pauw’s departure emboldened them to admit they wanted a change of style; to maintain the solidity that got them to a World Cup, but wed it to increased adventure.

Tonight, Eileen Gleeson has the opportunity to really put this theory of evolution into practice.

They square up to a fantastic France outfit at Stade Saint-Symphorien, the home of FC Metz, with around 18,000 supporters expected.

Manager Herve Renard (above) will leave after the summer’s Paris Olympic Games to pursue his ambition of leading a men’s team into the 2026 World Cup. He laughed off any suggestion that team could be the Republic of Ireland, joining a long list of candidates who’ve removed themselves from the race; if they were ever in it at all.

“No, but I think every week some people will find for me a new destination, or maybe every day,” he said. “It’s not the most important. I will never again respond to any question about my future.”

He is determined to leave on a high, and it would be unwise for Ireland to count on France slumping into auto-pilot for the next few months. The last time they lost on home soil was during the 2019 World Cup, when the USA beat them 2-1 at the Parc des Princes.

France and Ireland met last July in a pre-World Cup friendly in Tallaght that the visitors won 3-0. Both teams have a few new faces on board since that collision, but they’ll be largely familiar with each other.

Captain Wendie Renard, coming back from an injury, may start on the bench. Herve Renard said on Thursday that he wanted to manage her minutes, with an eye on Tuesday’s match against Sweden.

Veteran striker Eugenie Le Sommer could be held in reserve too as Renard has the luxury of mixing and matching his abundance of attacking riches.

Selma Bacha, Kadidiatou Diani and Antoinette Katoto represent a frightening support cast for the supreme Delphine Cascarino, who is likely to lead the line.

Just how will Ireland go about nullifying their hosts? Gleeson accepted that they can’t step on to a team so loaded with pace and ability. They will have to dig in, sit tight and maximise every opportunity they get to keep hold of the ball.

“We expect that they’ll have more of the ball than us so what we have to do is be super prepared to be out of possession and to do that well,” she said.

“But the moments that we do transition, we have to be as clinical as we can be and exploit the spaces that we can in those moments.”

Ireland will need a big display from defender Caitlin Hayes

A central defensive three of Cailtin Hayes, Louise Quinn and Aoife Mannion offers height, strength and composure. Heather Payne and Katie McCabe manwhile look suited to occupying the wing-back positions – both will be crucially important if Ireland are to stymie France’s major threat out wide.

Tyler Toland and Denise O’Sullivan missed the 2-0 loss to Wales. Ireland were all over the place that evening; disjointed and error-stewn. Those two should help to bring back cohesion, with Megan Connolly or Ruesha Littlejohn in beside them for what will be a physical midfield scrap.

Jess Ziu was the shining light against the Welsh and has the skill-set to offer Kyra Carusa suppot while mucking in out of possession too. Ziu is also excellent in tight spaces – an important tool when you’re getting pinned in by top teams.

If Ireland get out of Metz with anything it would be a monumental result. Their ambition is to be admired; it takes guts to stick your neck out and tell the world you believe you can go toe to toe with the best around.

Expect the Girls in Green to be typically committed tonight, full of endeavour and courage. They might just have a few moments going forward too; the occasional counter-jab to let France know they’re in game.

Renard’s charges should pack too much firepower here, but Ireland will lean on their experience of that 1-1 against Sweden in Gothenburg two years ago, when they withstood a furious onslaught to nick a point.

Life in the big time is about to begin.

Predicted lineups

France: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin; Maelle Lakrar, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Eve Perisset, Sakina Karchaoui; Sandie Toletti, Kenza Dali; Selma Bacha, Kadidiatou Diani, Antoinette Katoto; Delphine Cascarino

Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Heather Payne, Caitlin Hayes, Louise Quinn, Aoife Mannion, Katie McCabe; Tyler Toland, Megan Connolly, Denise O’Sullivan; Jess Ziu; Kyra Carusa

Watch France v Republic of Ireland in Euro 2025 qualifying on Friday from 7.35pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on and the RTÉ News app and listen to commentary on 2fm’s Game On

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