France was a pre-tournament favorite to win it all, and has a bracket mined with world powers in its path. But they better not look past today’s opponents, or they might not even make it to face England, Germany, Italy, or Spain in the first place.
The Republic of Ireland is in its first ever European Championship knockout after a last-gasp win over Italy in the final group stage match. That game’s hero Robbie Brady is in the starting lineup for today, along with all 10 others from that game.
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For the French, expectations have been much higher than the product on the field so far, but the results have been there. Having the ability to rest many of its players for the final group stage match was big, so Dimitri Payet comes back into the side today along with Blaise Matuidi, N'Golo Kante, and Olivier Grioud.
The man they need to step up is Paul Pogba, who hasn’t lived up to the wildly high expectations for a major tournament in his home country. He was rested for the 2-0 win over Albania, but came back into the lineup last time out against Switzerland, a 0-0 draw that left much to be desired. Antoine Griezmann also hasn’t been where the hosts need, with just one goal this tournament so far.
France: Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra; Kante, Matuidi, Pogba; Payet, Griezmann, Giroud.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph, Ward, Keogh, Duffy, Coleman, McClean, Brady, McCarthy, Hendrick, Long, Murphy.