France break Irish resistance with late winner

France drew first blood in UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group B thanks to Emelyne Laurent’s 65th-minute strike against the Republic of Ireland in Kopavogur.

Sandrine Soubeyrand’s team needed until 15 minutes from time to unlock an Irish back line which had conceded just once in six qualifiers, though for all their defensive fortitude the Republic were unable to muster the same offensive threat as the French.

Ireland may have settled quickly, but France gradually took the attacking initiative, registering 21 attempts to the Republic’s three. Not that Dave Connell’s side were pushovers, the Irish – who were runners-up in this competition on their only previous finals appearance in 2010 – continuing to serve reminders of their ambition in a game punctuated by quick Irish breaks.

Inevitably, though, the pressure on Ireland No1 Amanda McQuillan intensified the longer the match wore on, and the goalkeeper was finally beaten when defender Agathe Ollivier crossed from the left and midfielder Laurent headed in despite the custodian’s best efforts. It was the first goal let in by McQuillan in 331 minutes and for Ireland there was no way back. Instead, the three points for France marked the ideal start for the three-time defeated finalists.

David Connell, Republic of Ireland
It was a little bit cruel when France scored. We were coping very well and even though the French had more possession we restricted them to long-range efforts. There was a quick free-kick, we switched off and they punished us, so we are a little bit disappointed. We are also a little bit disappointed with the manner in which we tried to keep the ball – we did not do well in that department. We defended very well and we know where the French are good – they are a good side with a lot of strong players, especially in attack. Our cornerstone is working hard in defence, but we can do better in hanging onto the ball. The girls are ready for a tournament like this. We have young players but this is all about preparing the players and trying to give them experience and this is a great stage. We know we have a tough game on Thursday but we make up for any lack of resources by working very hard. We now regroup and I am very proud of the team today.

Sandrine Soubeyrand, France
We planned to play according to our technical qualities. We also expected to score quickly and that the Irish would be more attacking – but we had some difficulties getting to the finish line and putting the ball into the net. Maybe we were a little bit stressed, so we have to learn to be patient, plus we were not direct enough to score earlier in the game. The goal came from a long pass so sometimes you have to change your approach, but the main plan is to attack at speed. All games are different. Our way of playing is always to keep the ball yet it also depends on our opponents. Our players are young so they are nervous but also excited, but once the referee starts the game the nerves should go. This is the first championship for all the players, except one. There is no pressure – we accept each generation is different – though we want to go as far as possible in the competition.

Emelyne Laurent gives France opening win in Group B
French have 21 goal attempts but Irish defend stoutly
Ireland v Switzerland and France v Norway on Thursday