Evan Ferguson injury a massive blow ahead of France clash
2024 European Qualifying Group B: France v Republic of Ireland (Thursday, Parc des Prince, 7.45pm Irish time)
IRELAND’S hopes of springing a massive surprise in Paris tomorrow night faded considerably after man of the moment Evan Ferguson was ruled out of the French tie and the visit of Holland on Sunday night.
It’s a devastating blow for the Brighton teenager and the Irish as they try to plot the downfall of last year’s World Cup finalists without their in-form striker as well as Seamus Coleman (injured) and the suspended Matt Doherty.
Ferguson (18) sustained a knee injury during Brighton’s 3-1 Premier League win over Newcastle and after being assessed by Ireland’s medical team, he was deemed unfit to play any part in the Euro 2024 double header.
In a statement, the FAI confirmed the worst possible injury news ahead of Thursday: "Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson has been ruled out of the two Euro 2024 qualifiers against France and the Netherlands.
“The Brighton forward sustained a knee injury in the 3-1 home win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
“Ferguson reported for international duty on Sunday, but after assessment from the Ireland medical team, has been ruled out of both fixtures.”
Ferguson had bagged two goals in just six international appearances and all week manager Stephen Kenny was trumpeting the prospect of “one famous win” transforming the complexion of Group B, with Ireland falling to defeat to France and Greece already.
But, without their key striker, Ireland's task got a whole lot tougher.
Ferguson’s absence undoubtedly moves fit-again Chiedozie Ogbene up the pecking order having missed the summer games against Greece and Gibraltar with a hamstring injury.
Kenny, notably, was singing the praises of Preston NE's Will Keane.
“Will Keane actually has had to do an unbelievable shift for Preston,” said the manager at his squad announcement last week.
“They obviously nearly have maximum points and he’s been their only fit striker. He played 96 minutes last week in the lone role up front, so he’s done really well; [he’s] very good with his back to goal, technically very high level, you can see why he was at Manchester United and why he played at that level. Injuries really blighted his career, and he has had sort of a late renaissance, but he has done well there.”
Adam Idah can’t command a regular spot in Norwich’s attack but Kenny remains a big fan of the Cork native, and watched him score in last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing of Gillingham.
Aaron Connolly is also among the manager’s strike options for tomorrow’s daunting assignment in the French capital.
Defender John Egan has travelled to Paris despite carrying a knock.
Meanwhile, Jason Knight is confident of getting a result against the French and draws a lot of confidence from their spirited and stylish display against them in Dublin in March.
“We put in a good performance against France at home,” said Knight, who’s moved from Derby to Bristol City.
“I think we just need to replicate that and go one step further. It's obviously going to be difficult but we're full of confidence.
“We've gone through some really good preparation so far this week and we're looking forward to the game.
“We need to work extremely hard as they've got good players, they're a good team. We obviously had chances at home, but we just need to be converting them and keeping the back door shut as well.
“We're going into this window wanting and needing points. It’s still early in this campaign and we’re still in it. We had a few difficult results, Greece away being one, but we’re still in this.”