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24th Jun 2016

Didier Deschamps’ second-in-command reveals that France had started preparing for Northern Ireland

"On Wednesday evening we had to completely change things"

Darragh Murphy

France line up against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday afternoon but, apparently, they had already started preparations for a different game entirely.

Didier Deschamps’ side were playing the odds and didn’t expect Ireland to beat Italy, which they did in dramatic circumstances, on Wednesday night.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016

Robbie Brady’s late winner ensured that Martin O’Neill’s men would continue on in Euro 2016 and were matched up with Group A winners France.

If Ireland hadn’t got the win, Turkey would have taken their place in the next round and would have been paired up with Wales while France would have taken on Northern Ireland next.

And that’s clearly what Les Bleus anticipated judging by the comments from Deschamps’ assistant manager Guy Stephan on Friday.

France v Albania - Group A: UEFA Euro 2016

Speaking to, Stephan admitted that a gameplan for Michael O’Neill’s side, rather than Martin’s, was already being drawn up by France.

He said: “Yes, I’m not going to lie to you. Since the odds of coming up against Northern Ireland were much higher than the Republic of Ireland, or even Belgium or Sweden, we had already begun to prepare for and study Northern Ireland.

“Then on Wednesday evening we had to completely change things and shifted our focus to the Republic of Ireland. Thanks to the goal that Brady scored in the 85th minute, the Irish were propelled into our half of the draw.”


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