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Not for Irish eyes: Benjamin Pavard goes crossbar down from 20 yards out

Placed in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying group of death with France, the Netherlands and Greece, Ireland's only hope of reaching Germany was protecting Dublin against all invaders. 

Up first on Monday night was a visit from the World Cup runners-up, France, who'd just blasted the Dutch 4-0 in Paris to kick-off their own campaign.  

A sell-out crowd at the Aviva roared on the Boys in Green to a stalemate at halftime. Olivier Giroud (now the oldest outfield player to represent Les Bleus in a competitive match) was marshaled by John Egan, Kylian Mbappé found zero space behind the Irish lines and Antoine Griezmann wasn't looking like the hybrid version of himself, N'Golo Kanté and Paul Pogo that was on display in Qatar.

Neither side landed a shot on target until the 50th minute, but that was right back Benjamin Pavard reminding us all of the violence he's capable of with a howitzer from 20 yards out that went crossbar down on Ireland keeper Gavin Bazunu. 

Stephen Kenny is trying to get Ireland to play progressively, but Josh Cullen really messed that one up. It wasn't to be for Evan Ferguson either — the 18-year-old Brighton striker was handed the start but got hooked in the 65th-minute after finding life difficult against Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté.

France kept hammering away at Ireland's goal looking for a second, but the Boys in Green came alive in the final 10 minutes. Mike Maignan, France's new No. 1 following the retirement of Hugo Lloris, made two huge saves at the death to preserve all three points for the visitors.

France appears to be running away with top spot in Group B, leaving Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands fighting for second. The Dutch rebounded from France's spanking on Monday by putting three past Gibraltar. 

UEFA Group B qualifying

I don't think Gibraltar's going to make it.

France gets Gibraltar next on June 16 while Ireland travels to Athens that same day. That's going to be incredibly high stakes despite it only being the second game of qualifying for both the Irish and Greeks.

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