Rather strangely, the host nation, from Group A do not compete in the knockout phase until Sunday in the 2pm game against the Republic of Ireland. France will have fans in their droves out to support Les Bleus and well, everybody knows how many fans the Irish have taken over to France this time around. France have to be the favourites to win this and you can see why with the quality of players they have and record at the Euros but can Ireland keep the fairytale going a little longer? Irish fans will certainly hope so.
France cruised through their group as expected, picking up 2 late wins against Albania and Romania in Group A and playing well enough to beat Switzerland in the last game. They did rest a few players for the Switzerland game so their lack of rhythm and victory was more understandable. Now they'll be ready to take on the Republic of Ireland and will want to progress to the quarter final stage in front of their own fans and create history by winning a major international tournament being held in their country yet again.
Wow, what a game for the Republic of Ireland last time out, beating Italy in the 87th minute to send them through in 3rd place was the stuff of dreams, even Roy Keane managed to shed a tear, it was magical. I'm sure Roy being the way he is will now want the Irish players to forget about that game and concentrate on beating France, whether they can do that is another thing. Ireland have not played brilliantly in this tournament, throwing away 2 points against Sweden and being smashed by Belgium before scraping that victory against an Italian side featuring 9 changes from the previous 2 games.
The question is can Ireland do it again? Can they harness that joy from the last game to propel them into another unlikely victory?
I hate to burst the Irish bubble here but I'm backing the French. France have played well this tournament and will have a lot of home support. Not to mention the quality of their playing squad in comparison to Irelands. The likes of Dimitri Payet and Griezmann have been brilliant so far and I expect them to march into the quarter-finals.
This definitely is an outside punt but if it comes off it will win you a nice amount of money. I can't see Ireland winning the game outright in 90 minutes but I can see them sneaking a draw and taking it to penalties if France have an off day. Penalties are a lottery and it would present them with a great chance of winning. Its unlikely but it is possible and has brilliant odds.
As much as I gained respect for Ireland during that Italy game, the logical person in me cannot forget the collapse in the second half of the Belgium game. Belgium have not been amazing this tournament but they destroyed Ireland in that second half and Ireland let them, barely putting up a fight. The fact that I know they're capable of that kind of capitulation and France are so good at the moment, factors in this decision. 3-1 to France.
I really am bursting the Irish bubble here and it does pain me but France should dominate this game and I fully expect them to. Payet should run the show early on and I'm not sure the likes of O'Shea can handle any of the players France put out, Martial, Griezmann or Giroud. If Deschamps sets up the right way he can put this one to bed early.
The French public are not massive fans of Olivier Giroud but Didier Deschamps seems to and he scores goals. I expect Giroud to start the game and I also expect him to get the first goal. He's a very good goal scorer that can mix it with the Irish defenders physically and wants that physical battle. Giroud's Premier League experience will help him here.
I think Republic of Ireland could bag one here but I expect France to score more than 2 goals against a team that's proven it can just fall apart at the wrong moment. The wealth of talent France have available should be able to cut through this Irish defence relatively easily so over 2.5 goals is not out of the realms of possibility. It only needs to even be 2-1 for this to happen which is a pretty realistic scoreline.