France clear favourites in Lyon but Ireland must up the pressure to resist their advances

A historic quarter-final spot can be achieved with a shock win

Ireland, France, Lyon

A view of training ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

It's a pre-match talking point, but the Thierry Henry handball incident will have no bearing on today's clash in Lyon.

While a few players from the Ireland team that day seven years ago are involved in the Euro 2016 squad, it appears to be no more than a footnote ahead of a potentially historic Euro 2016 knockout stage clash.

Follow all the action from Ireland's crucial game live

A gusty performance in Lille leading to Robbie Brady's late winner against Italy has got us into this first ever knockout stage appearance at a European Championship and for realists the journey will end against the hosts.

But aside from their fans' guilt at the events of Paris 2009, France have yet to sparkle on home soil, which gives the Boys in Green some hope.

Les Bleus' two wins at Euro 2016 have all come very late on, with Dimitri Payet a central figure in turning dour draws into rousing finales.

Paul Pogba ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Albania, Romania and Switzerland have provided dogged resistance in the group stage to prevent the home nation from fluttering and aside from the Belgium game, Ireland have battling qualities in spades.

With uncertainty over Paul Pogba, Antoine Grizezmann and other stars, France have yet to find the right mix this summer, although Paris-based football writer Matt Spiro rightly expected the same starting XI from the opening night win over Romania.

Matt also suggests that should "the performance turn out to be equally as flat, Ireland have a real chance".

Ireland, meanwhile, have found fortune when a diamond-like formation is played as exemplified in the matches against Sweden and Italy, is used. 

The Shane Duffy-Richard Keogh central defence against Italy did little wrong and sees action again, while if Ireland want to replicate the pressing which trouble the Azzurri, Daryl Murphy partners Shane Long and joins him in pulling wide to stop the full-backs Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra from having an easy day.

Lest we forget, there were pre-tournament concerns about the defensive partnership of Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny.

 

Either way, France will be clearly be favourites with all the pressure that entails, while they have also had three extra days of rest in comparison. 

Accentuating that pressure on a France side that has yet to fully capture the imagination of their public is key and it will be key for Martin O'Neill's side to frustrate them for as long as possible.

While France will feel that they have one foot in the quarter-finals, you just never know... or as they sy in France, "on ne sait jamais"... 

If we do beat them in normal time, extra-time or penalties, the scenes that followed Brady's goal on Wednesday will prove to have merely been a taster of what was to come.