Teenager Evan Ferguson sets sights on France after opening Republic account

Evan Ferguson has turned his attention to France after scoring his first senior international goal for the Republic of Ireland against Latvia (Brian Lawless/PA)
Damian Spellman, PA

Teenager Evan Ferguson is hoping for more of the same against World Cup runners-up France after opening his Republic of Ireland goalscoring account in his first senior start for his country.

The 18-year-old Brighton striker became the youngest man since Robbie Keane to score for the Republic when he found the back of the net in Wednesday’s 3-2 friendly victory over Latvia at the Aviva Stadium having made two brief appearances as a substitute in November.

However, with his Ireland career still very much in its infancy, Ferguson swiftly turned his attention to Monday night’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier against superstar Kylian Mbappe and company and the task of repeating the feat when it matters most.

He said: “I don’t think there is much better feeling than scoring at home with family and friends watching, there is no other way to describe it.

“But now it’s just try and go on and think about the France game, and see if I can get another one.”

The clamour for Ferguson to be given his chance has grown in recent weeks after a return of six goals in 13 games for Brighton, two of them in Sunday’s 5-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Grimsby.

Comparisons to Keane, who made his senior debut as a 17-year-old and scored his first goals – two of them – in a 5-0 World Cup qualifier win over Malta three months after his 18th birthday, are inevitable.

Robbie Keane scored a record 68 goals for the Republic of Ireland
Robbie Keane scored a record 68 goals for the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

The former Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, Tottenham, Liverpool and LA Galaxy frontman went on to plunder a national-record 68 in 146 appearances for Ireland to set the bar impossibly high for those who follow.

For Ferguson, the task is simply to establish himself in Stephen Kenny’s squad, although it would be no surprise if he had some involvement against Didier Deschamps’ France as his meteoric rise continues apace.

Asked about the prospect of lining up against Mbappe, he said: “They are all good players, you know what I mean, so I think we just have to try our best.

“We are probably going to have to double up on whatever we can see. But I don’t think we should be too worried.”

Kylian Mbappe and his France team-mates lie in wait for the Republic of Ireland
Kylian Mbappe and his France team-mates lie in wait for the Republic of Ireland (Nick Potts/PA)

Worry is not something which seemed to affect Ferguson as he got his big chance on the international stage.

Manager Kenny had revealed on Tuesday that the youngster would start against Latvia, and it took him just 17 minutes to get the goal he craved when he stabbed home from Michael Obafemi’s pull-back to build upon the lead Callum O’Dowda had given their side.

Spectacular long-range strikes from Roberts Uldrikis and Arturs Zjuzins had the visitors level at the break and it took substitute Chiedozie Ogbene’s 65th-minute goal to win it for the Republic to cap a more than satisfactory night for their emerging star.

Ferguson said: “It means something different playing international. Every game, there is more on the line for international, so it just feels a bit different playing for your country.”