Ireland's attempts to make it to another major tournament were dealt a significant blow in Paris on Thursday night after Aurélien Tchouaméni and Marcus Thuram ensured that Ireland would need a miracle to advance from the group.
Stephen Kenny spoke about Ireland needing a 'big win' this week, but Ireland was outclassed in a one-sided affair in the French capital.
Ireland entered the game with their Euro 2024 qualifying hopes hanging by a thread. A loss to either France or the Netherlands in this window would mean that reaching the finals would be nearly impossible for Kenny and Ireland.
This was also coupled with the fact that Ireland was without Evan Ferguson, Seamus Coleman (both injured), and Matt Doherty (suspended).
Within minutes of kick-off, Adrien Rabiot unleashed an early effort at Ireland's Gavin Bazunu. He stood his ground, thwarting the Juventus midfielder's attempt.
Moments later, Theo Hernandez showcased his dribbling prowess, leaving Nathan Collins in his wake before delivering a precise cutback to Olivier Giroud However, John Egan blocked Giroud's shot.
As anticipated, France dictated play in the early stages, asserting their dominance in possession.
However, Chiedozie Ogbene burst into the box with a burst of speed, unleashing a powerful shot that was collected by Mike Maignan
Irish hearts were soon in their mouths when a free-kick from Antoine Griezmann had everyone on edge. The ball sailed past the wall, took a bounce, and struck Bazunu's chest before being cleared by the defense.
France would soon make their domination count when Tchouaméni scored from 30 yards. The ball was cleared by Collins. Mbappé found the midfielder in space, and he left Bazunu with no chance for the goal.
Rabiot had another chance to make it two after good work from Ousmane Dembélé, but Shane Duffy again blocked the shot.
Shortly after, Giroud went off and was replaced by Marcus Thuram. This didn't stop France from continuing in the same vein they had in the first half.
The French continued to dominate proceedings. Ireland huffed and puffed, but they could do little with the limited time on the ball they had. Adam Idah was left frustrated up front.
Mbappé made it 2-0 when a through ball over the top from Tchouaméni found him one-on-one with Bazunu. The ball managed to evade Bazunu's grasp, but luckily for Ireland, Mbappé was flagged offside.
Ireland's efforts in the half were few and far between, and that remained the case until the half-time whistle.
— The Athletic | Football (@TheAthleticFC) September 7, 2023
Ireland came out in the second half with more intent and desire to close down the French players. Jayson Molumby and Josh Cullen were both cautioned for poor challenges within the first two minutes. Cullen was booked for his attempt.
France thought they had a penalty when Mbappé went down in the box, but it was waved away. That didn't matter because Thuram made it 2-0 after Ireland failed to clear Mbappé's attempt on goal. Thuram blasted the ball past Bazunu in the Parc des Princes.
Ireland managed to beat the offside trap, and Adam Idah raced through on goal. He delayed and found James McClean. The Wrexham winger found Ogbene, who managed to get his header on target, but quick reactions from Maignan prevented Ireland from getting on the scoresheet.
Moments later, Mbappé missed a golden chance to make it 3-0 and end the tie, but he couldn't make contact with the onrushing ball.
Mbappé, known for his blistering pace, ran through on goal and only had Bazunu to beat, but he missed the target and was ruled offside in the same breath.
France started to slow the game down, and for about 10 minutes, they played keep-ball. That was until Tchouaméni decided to have another crack at Bazunu's goal. The Southampton stopper kept the Real Madrid star's effort out.
Idah and Molumby were withdrawn, with Will Keane and Dara O'Shea coming on to try and salvage a result in France.
At around 70 minutes gone, it was a matter of when and not if France would score again. Dembélé rattled the Irish woodwork after skinning McClean in the box. The score would remain 2-0 for that moment at least.
Keane, who had come on in the second half, was forced to come off because of an injury. The sub was replaced by another sub in Aaron Connolly. Connolly had not played for his country since 2021.
A late header from Shane Duffy was Ireland's only other attempt in the half and the game that ended in defeat.
France nearly made it 3-0 as Ireland fell asleep at the back post and allowed Thuram to steal in and get a head on Hernandez's cross, but from point-blank range, he was denied by Bazunu.
France ran out worthy winners in the game in the end. Les Bleus' won 2-0 in the one-sided contest.
The 2-0 defeat to France means that Ireland's chances of making it to Germany have just gotten tougher. Ireland's next game will be against the Netherlands on Sunday, September 10.
FT | Plenty of effort but no reward as we fall to defeat in Paris.
We go again for a massive game in Dublin on Sunday 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/VnNJB30OZB
— Ireland Football ⚽️🇮🇪 (@IrelandFootball) September 7, 2023
France (4-2-1-3): Maignan; Kounde, Upamecano, L. Hernandez, T. Hernandez; Rabiot, Tchouaméni; Griezmann, Dembélé, Mbappé, Giroud
Republic of Ireland (5-3-2): Bazunu; Browne, Duffy, Egan, Collins, Stevens; Molumby, Cullen, Knight; Ogbene, Idah