Talking Points: Giroud, Hoolahan, & an opportunity for England?

Date published: Sunday 26th June 2016 4:37

Olivier Giroud: Striker created France's second goal

Praise for Olivier Giroud, a mistake from Martin O’Neill, and potential hope for England feature in our talking points from France’s 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Deschamps shows Wenger how to use Giroud

Olivier Giroud has had his fair share of critics both in England and France, but showed just how effective he can be with the right players around him.

Despite having scored 29 goals for club and country this season – an outstanding haul – Giroud remains an erratic and inconsistent finisher. Just as Arsenal know all to well, France would be extremely naieve to believe the striker is clinical enough to fire a side to glory.

However, with Antoine Griezmann to his right, the goalscoring burden is lifted on Giroud, meaning he can focus on his main strength; his strength.

Griezmann was somewhat underwhelming in the group stages but has the uncanny ability to find the back of the net, and now has 36 goals this term. Thanks to Giroud’s physical presence preoccupying Ireland’s two centre-halves,  the Atletico Madrid forward was afforded the time and space to bag the double which ultimately earned France their quarter-final place.

Giroud’s play to create Griezmann’s second will likely remain relatively unheralded, but the deftness and accuracy of his knockdown was nothing short of superb.

O’Neill left to rue omission of Hoolahan

Ireland’s frantic and energetic start to the encounter my have been rewarded with the penalty which was expertly dispatched by Robbie Brady, but it proved to be that age-old adage of scoring too early.

Martin O’Neill’s men were always likely to need at least one more goal to stand a chance of progressing and would have gone in at the break disappointed not to have been further ahead after a lacklustre first half from France.

The industry of the likes of James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick may have suffocated the hosts’ midfield, but Ireland needed that extra element of invention which substitute Hoolahan, who has produced the two real moments of quality for the side this summer, possesses.

On a number of occasions the underdogs worked their way into threatening positions, only to lack that final killer touch. Hoolahan could have helped provide the key to unlock the door. Meanwhile, in the second half when France started to get on top, the Norwich midfielder’s tidy passing would have helped stem the waves and waves of attack.

Hoolahan did eventually enter the fray after 72 minutes, by which point the damage had already been done.

Suspensions could prove costly in quarter-finals

France may have clicked into gear in the second half, but the sluggish first period proved they are vulnerable. Only time will tell if the players are struggling to cope with the weight of expectation on their own turf, which will only increase the deeper into the tournament they go.

Having already gone into the tournament without being able to call upon the services of centre-backs Raphael Varane, Mamadou Sakho, Kurt Zouma and Jeremy Mathieu, Deschamps will now be without Adil Rami for the quarter-final after the Valencia defender picked up his second booking of Euro 2016.

Rami’s absence means should England beat Iceland, then Wayne Rooney and co could be going up against a back four containing Eliaquim Mangala, a prospect which will have many Manchester City fans rubbing their hands with glee.

Leicester dynamo N’Golo Kante, meanwhile, will also miss out through suspension, which will seriously deplete the energy in France’s midfield, and leaves Deschamps with a major headache.

Didier Deschamps

Rob Conlon

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