Antoine Griezmann revealed there were harsh words in the France dressing room as the Euro 2016 hosts staged a major fightback to edge past the Republic of Ireland into the quarter-finals.
Trailing to Robbie Brady’s second-minute penalty as Ireland got off to the perfect start in Lyon, Griezmann spared French blushes as he struck twice within three second-half minutes to turn the last-16 tie before defender Shane Duffy’s 66th-minute dismissal for a professional foul effectively ended the game as a contest.
However, Griezmann admitted a few home truths were aired at half-time as Didier Deschamps and his players fought for their lives in their own tournament.
The Atletico Madrid star said: “We didn’t play well in the first half and we said things in the changing room.
“The coach said things, the players said things, but we were playing for France to give everything we had.”
It took France 58 minutes to cancel out Brady’s nerveless strike after Paul Pogba had felled Shane Long inside the penalty area, but Griezmann, who had squandered a series of chances before the break, was lethal after it, heading home Bacary Sagna’s cross and then converting Olivier Giroud’s superb knock-down.
Deschamps said: “I knew this match was going to be a difficult match and when Ireland took the lead, it made us a little bit more uncomfortable in the first half.
“We did react well and we played with lots of enthusiasm from then, but we really had to dig deep to get through this situation. This team is really bringing a lot of emotion to the crowd and making everybody fall in love with them. There’s a lot of emotion here in Lyon and we really needed this great support that we had from the fans.”
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill left Lyon intensely proud of his players after seeing them eventually wilt under the pressure of playing two enormous games inside five days against a side which had enjoyed a week’s break. He said: “I was asked at the press conference yesterday about the difference that three days makes to one side, and we definitely got the short straw in that aspect.”
Asked if Ireland had reached their level by making the last 16, he said: “We were playing a very fine side in France, who are possibly the tournament favourites, today and we really had a go - not only a go, we had them under severe pressure in the game.
“We took the lead and at half-time we are not only well in the game but actually feeling that we could win the match, so no, I don’t think so.”