Euro 2016

New game plan as Irish play 'away'

France forwards Dimitri Payet (front) and Antoine Griezmann training in Lyon's Parc Olympique Stadium ahead of their clash against Ireland. The duo are likely to provide support up front for Olivier Giroud.
France forwards Dimitri Payet (front) and Antoine Griezmann training in Lyon's Parc Olympique Stadium ahead of their clash against Ireland. The duo are likely to provide support up front for Olivier Giroud.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Keane slams 'unfair' ticket allocation, shorter recovery period as they tackle the sea of blue

ROUND OF 16

France v Ireland

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VERSAILLES • The sea of green will evaporate to a trickle in Lyon today and Ireland's approach to the European Championship Finals must change as a consequence.

In qualifying from their group, Martin O'Neill's players have achieved what they set out to do this summer, but new territory brings altered circumstances and the synergy between team and supporters, which reached a peak in their vibrant victory over Italy, will be challenged against France.

IT'S WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TIME

In the past, some teams have had a lot of time to get ready and they were knocked out. You have to find the balance between recovery, preparation and training.

GUY STEPHAN, France's assistant coach, who disagrees that longer breaks are always beneficial.

Having transformed Paris, Bordeaux and Lille into Dublin suburbs, Ireland face a drastically reduced ticket allocation for their round-of-16 game against the hosts.

Upwards of 75,000 fans have travelled for the tournament and made fixtures against Italy, Belgium and Sweden feel like home games, but they have been given only 4,500 tickets for the 59,000-capacity Parc Olympique Lyonnais, a discrepancy that Roy Keane described as "unfair".

Not that the Irish can do much about it and not that Keane would accept the excuse.

"We will be ready, but there is genuine disappointment - not just for a silly quote, but genuine disappointment - that there's not more Irish fans getting to the game to get behind the team," O'Neill's assistant said.

"I'm surprised at the number of tickets. Obviously, France are at home, but I was pretty sure it would be 60-40 or something. I know it's been on the cards for the last few months, but to be so outnumbered seems unfair.

Keane's other concern was the disparity in preparation time for each team. France, who last played against Switzerland in Lille on Sunday, will have had seven days, compared with Ireland's four.

After the 1-0 victory over Italy, Ireland had a recovery day on Thursday and they trained on Friday before flying to Lyon at 8pm.

"It's more unfair about the ticket allocation, but if you asked me, 'Do I think seven days' recovery is better than four?' Then yeah, you bet your life it is," he said.

France assistant coach Guy Stephan, however, dismissed that the extra days are an advantage.

"In the past, some teams have had a lot of time to get ready and they were knocked out," he said.

"You have to find the balance between recovery, preparation and training."

On the pitch, the Irish will also not find it easy against France. The hosts, who have yet to play a full match at their best in the tournament, have conceded only one goal in three matches - a penalty - but the back four have not been really tested.

Coach Didier Deschamps is likely to field the team who beat Romania in the tournament's curtain-raiser, with striker Olivier Giroud supported by Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet - himself a lethal weapon on set pieces.

This is the first meeting between the nations since the 2010 World Cup play-off, second leg in Paris, when Thierry Henry's hand-ball helped France to reach the Finals.

Possibly out of guilt, the hosts have been preoccupied with the story and Keane was asked by a French journalist whether Ireland were considering the possibility of revenge.

He shot down the notion. "We don't have that mentality," he said.

"Revenge does not come into it."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'New game plan as Irish play 'away''. Print Edition | Subscribe