French flair too much as Magilton's Northern Ireland U21s end campaign with another loss
Northern Ireland Under 21 0 France Under 21 3
Northern Ireland's Under-21s finished their disappointing European Championship qualifying campaign with a 3-0 defeat to France at Windsor Park.
While the game was nothing more than a final hit out for the Northern Irishmen, with Jim Magilton getting a last look at his squad going forward, France were still in with a chance of qualifying for the next stages with a win and other results going their way.
Therefore it was not surprising when the French took the lead through midfielder Jean-Kévin Augustin, who controlled a Thomas Lemar through ball well before firing home in the 16th minute.
Despite the apparent gap in quality between the two sides, based upon their group standings, the first half was even.
In fact, Northern Ireland could have, and maybe should have, equalised in the 26th minute when Linfield striker Paul Smyth wriggled free of his marker and shot straight at Mike Maignan in the French goal.
Instead, it was Augustin who to show them how to finish when he popped up in the 42nd minute, finishing from a tight angle to double the visitors' lead and his own tally for the night.
After the break the French quality began to show, and they were unlucky not to add to their lead, first through Lemar, whose shot was stopped by Conor Mitchell, and then when Corentin Tolisso's shot rattled the upright.
Magilton's side did well to hold out in a second half where they were the inferior side, but their resistance broke with just a minute to go as Celtic ace Moussa Dembélé finished well from inside the box to wrap up the win.
- Northern Ireland's Under-19 continued their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 defeat in Poland.
- Florian Schikowski scored the only goal on the hour mark to condemn Northern Ireland to their second defeat of the group.