Shane Long insists Republic of Ireland are not on a revenge mission over Thierry Henry’s infamous handball as the sides prepare to go head-to-head in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
Henry caused outrage in the Emerald Isle as he deliberately handballed in the build-up to the goal that cost Ireland a place at the South Africa World Cup in a 2009 play-off tie.
The Boys in Green can avenge the incident in perfect style by knocking France out of their own tournament in Lyon on Sunday.
But Ireland forward Long says revenge will not be a motivating factor as Martin O’Neill’s men attempt to book a quarter-final berth.
“No, the Henry handball will not be on our mind. What is that, seven years ago now? It’s forgotten about,” he said at a news conference.
“We were obviously devastated at the time that it cost us a place at the World Cup finals, but as I said, we don’t even think about that.
“We’re only thinking about this game. We’re playing a very good French team, on French soil. It’s going to be hard, but we’re right up for that challenge and we’re hoping that we can cause an upset.
“But when it comes to the Henry handball, it’s not even in our minds.”
Republic of Ireland have five players sitting one booking away from a suspension – Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Stephen Ward and Long.
France, meanwhile, took seven points from three games to win Group A and secure their ticket for the knockout stages.
Les Bleus are heavily fancied to reach the ls eight against an Ireland team that have progressed from the group stages at a European Championship for the first time.
But assistant coach Guy Stephan insists France can take nothing for granted.
“To be honest, we had been preparing for Northern Ireland. But we then got [Republic of] Ireland instead, which is a very well organised team,” he said at a media conference.
“They are a very rigorous side, with players that are not very well known. Their players do not play for England’s big clubs, but still for good teams such as Stoke City, West Brom and Southampton.
“There is more to their game than just long balls. They also know how to play quick short passes, even if the long ball remains their biggest weapon.
“We are not surprised Ireland qualified for the round of 16. They beat Germany in the qualifiers. That shows they can beat big teams. They do not concede a lot of goals.”
Olivier Giroud, N’Golo Kante, Laurent Koscielny and Adil Rami are all one card away from a ban for a potential quarter-final against either England or Iceland.
Giroud and Rami have been battling minor knocks, but are expected to be ready for the match.
Key Opta stats:
– France are unbeaten in their last five games against Republic of Ireland (winning two, drawing three). The Republic’s last win dates back to October 1981 in a World Cup qualifier (3-2)
– France are unbeaten in their last 15 major tournament games played on home soil, winning 13 and drawing two. Their last defeat dates back to July 1960.
– Wes Hoolahan was involved in both of the Irish’s goals at Euro 2016 so far: goalscorer against Sweden and assist provider against Italy.
– Paul Pogba has attempted 18 shots in major tournaments (10 at World Cup 2014, eight at Euro 2016) but only one of them has found the back of the net.
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