France booked its place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 after surviving an almighty scare against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
The host nation eventually prevailed 2-1 after Antoine Griezmann scored twice in four minutes to see off an opponent which played the final part of the contest with 10 men.
Shane Duffy was sent off after fouling Griezmann with the forward through on goal –and with him went any chance Ireland had of salvaging the tie.
Robbie Brady’s second minute penalty had given Ireland a shock lead in Lyon and France was booed off at the interval after an insipid showing.
But Griezmann headed home Bacary Sagna’s cross after 57 minutes before grabbing a second moments later.
Ireland pushed forward in search of an equalizer but struggled to create a meaningful opportunity as France held out to set up a clash with either Iceland or England in the last eight.
“We have difficulties getting into games, we saw that again today, and that’s something we have to work on,” Griezmann told reporters.
“Finding ourselves trailing made it difficult but we showed we’ve got heart. Things were said in the dressing room at halftime and in the second half, it was a different France team.”
France had been unconvincing during the opening stage of the tournament — despite finishing top of Group A.
Two narrow victories and a goalless draw against Switzerland gave little suggestion that it was ready to deal with its status as pre-tournament favorite.
In the first half against Ireland it labored horribly — failing to deal with the high intensity and physical approach of its opponent.
Brady’s second minute penalty, which was awarded after Paul Pogba had fouled Shane Long, gave Ireland something to hold onto as it attempted to pull off what would have been one of the most stunning results in the tournament’s history.
Ireland, which finished as one of the best third-placed sides at the tournament after its shock 1-0 win over Italy, had set itself up perfectly to frustrate the home side and left the field at halftime having carried out its game plan rather perfectly.
France emerged for the second half a different team and should have leveled within three minutes of the restart when Laurent Koscielny headed wide from close-range after meeting Dimitri Payet’s free kick.
It was a warning which Ireland failed to heed and France was soon level — Griezmann, who was completely unmarked, headed home Bacary Sagna’s cross to spark scenes of celebration.
Four minutes later it was 2-1 as Griezmann latched onto Olivier Giroud’s flick and fired past the Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Ireland, rattled by conceding two quick goals, was hampered further when Duffy was shown a straight red card for a foul on Griezmann as he attempted to race clear.
France, which had enjoyed an extra three days of rest compared to its opponent, was by far the the fresher of the two teams in the final stages and André-Pierre Gignac curled an effort against the crossbar as the home side pressed.
Griezmann went close to adding a third only for Randolph to produce a fine save.
“We are disappointed,” Ireland’s Seamus Coleman told ITV.
“We felt it was there for us and we gave our all. It shows how well we have done that we are disappointed getting beat.
“We wanted to go further for the fans but we hope we made people proud.”