Benjamin Pavard marked his return to international duty by scoring the only goal of the game as France defeated the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in a Euro 2024 qualifier in Dublin on Monday.
But France goalkeeper Mike Maignan had to make two fine saves late on to deny Ireland a draw in the hosts’ opening qualifier.
Victory meant World Cup finalists France had won both their opening Group B games following a convincing 4-0 defeat of the Netherlands on Friday.
Bayern Munich defender Pavard, making his first appearance for France since their opening group game of the World Cup in Qatar, struck five minutes into the second half after seizing on a loose pass across the face of his own goal by Ireland’s Josh Cullen.
France manager Didier Deschamps made three changes to the side that overwhelmed the Dutch, with Pavard replacing Jules Kounde, Eduardo Camavinga coming in for Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud taking over from Kingsley Coman.
Seamus Coleman overcame a thigh injury to captain Ireland in one of six changes to the side that beat Latvia 3-2 in a friendly last Wednesday.
That meant a first competitive start for teenager Evan Ferguson, a striker with Premier League outfit Brighton, after the 18-year-old scored his first international goal against Latvia.
France dominated the first half but created few clear chances, with Nathan Collins intervening to prevent Giroud from capitalising on Randal Kolo Muani’s clever back-heeled pass after he had rounded the goalkeeper but been forced wide.
But the goal France seemed destined to score arrived in the 50th minute.
The 26-year-old Pavard pounced on Cullen’s over-ambitious pass and fired in a powerful shot past Republic goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
France, however, were almost punished for failing to double their advantage when substitute Kounde headed the ball towards his own net, only for Maignan to make a stunning stop.
Moments later, Maignan made another world-class save from a Collins header before France survived three minutes of added-on time.
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