ANALYSIS: For 45 minutes, Ireland put their best foot forward on and off the ball
Pressing and penetration was evident as the Boys in Green led France into the break16:24 Sunday 26 June 2016, 16:24 26 Jun 2016
The Euro 2016 adventure is over but Ireland did not let themselves down overall against host nation France in Lyon.
The Boys in Green lost but in that first half, they did brilliantly on and off the ball.
But they couldn't maintain the pressing and penetration as France pushed forward and our own energy levels dipped, especially with Shane Duffy's sending off giving the favourites a man advantage.
How we pressed
This France side are not a team that picks you apart in the short-passing style that Spain does. Indeed, other than Dimitri Payet, they do not have a midfield player resembling a playmaker and even he is more of an attacking midfielder.
Paul Pogba is an intelligent passer but he is more box-to-box as are Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante. They would prefer to break into space but Ireland pressed intelligently in the first half.
With the Irish back-four pushing up because they could afford to with target man Olivier Giroud leading the French line and the forward-line and midfield pressing when France crossed the half-way line, space was squeezed.
With James McCarthy sitting in front of the defence, it meant Jeff Hendrick, James McClean and Robbie Brady could push out towards the channels while Shane Long and Daryl Murphy pushed wider.
Indeed, the first half was so disciplined and impressive that Ireland did not lose a single tackle according to the Opta stats.
The second half saw France press higher up themselves which left us retreating further back as a defensive line, resulting in the headed equaliser for goalscorer Antoine Griezmann, who saw more of the ball as it wore on.
We wilted in the sun from there on in with spaces opening up for France players to run into, resulting in the second goal which was a direct ball to Olivier Giroud, flicked on into space after Shane Duffy made an error of movement as he got drawn towards the ball.
Four tackles were also lost in the first line of pressing in the second half, while there were fewer ball recoveries in that half.
Kingsley Coman's introduction on the right flank as a natural winger also stretched the back-four more.
Use of the ball
Getting the ball back was one thing, but once we got it, we counter-attacked effectively in the first half because the centre of the park had players who could make good use of it in the shape of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick in that diamond-like shape.
It was a start contrast to the Giovanni Trapattoni era in particular when central midfield was not emphasised as a zone in which creativity was sourced.
The passing from Brady (19), McCarthy (8) and Hendrick (13) in the first half
Compare the passing charts from our most central midfield trio in the first half (above) and in the second half (below).
The engine room trio saw far more of the ball in the first '45 and were clearly more direct even if they were more inaccurate.
But as France upped the ante after the break and squeezed up the field, there was less of the ball and the passing becomes alarmingly more sideways.
Also the stats and graphics show that Shane Long and Daryl Murphy did not get the ball in the wide channels anywhere near as often in the second half.
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