France beats Ireland 2-0 to stay perfect in European Championship qualifiers

PARIS (AP) — France extended its perfect start to its European Championship qualifying campaign to five matches with a 2-0 win over Ireland on Thursday.

A spot at the continental tournament in Germany next summer now looks all but secured for the two-time champion.

Didier Deschamps' team has been rock solid so far and has not conceded a goal, topping Group B with 15 points and a nine-point lead over the Netherlands and Greece. The Dutch, who defeated their Greek rivals 3-0, have two matches in hand.

Aurelien Tchouameni and Marcus Thuram scored France’s goals at the Parc des Princes. The game was played at Paris Saint-Germain's stadium because of the Rugby World Cup’s opening game scheduled Friday at the Stade de France.

Deschamps made four changes to the team that defeated Greece 1-0 in the previous game, with striker Olivier Giroud starting up front in place of Randal Kolo Muani.

Giroud’s 125th appearance did not last long, though, as he was replaced by Thuram after just 25 minutes with an apparent ankle injury following contact with an Irish player.

Playing in front of his home crowd, PSG forward Kylian Mbappe delivered the assist for Tchouameni’s opener. Another PSG player, Ousmane Dembele, was a threat throughout down the right.

Irish forward Chiedozie Ogbene's pace down the right flank faded quite quickly, and France took control after Tchouameni broke the deadlock in the 19th minute.

Before that, a direct free kick from Antoine Griezmann had almost caught Gavin Bazunu off guard, but the Ireland goalkeeper managed to clear the ball with his chest.

There was not much Bazunu could do three minutes later when Tchouameni made the most of Mbappe’s back pass just outside the box to curl a superb 25-meter shot inside the far post.

Mbappe thought he had doubled France’s lead before the interval following a quick combination with Thuram, but a VAR check confirmed his teammate was in an offside position in the buildup.

Thuram made it 2-0 in the 48th from the rebound after Mbappe’s shot from inside the box was blocked.

France goalkeeper Mike Maignan then ensured yet another clean sheet with a reflex save to deny Ogbene’s header.


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