A draw that felt like a defeat, that was the prevailing view among the Irish supporters on their way out of the Stade de France.

Those travelling on to Bordeaux undoubtedly would have taken the scenario that now presents itself, the Republic of Ireland ahead of Belgium in the Group E table after match-day one.

History is against the Republic of Ireland, with Belgium undefeated in competitive games between the sides.

In 1934 a World Cup qualifier produced a 4-4 draw. All four Irish goals came from Paddy Moore, the first man to achieve that feat in a World Cup game.

Fast-forward to 1980 and another World Cup qualifying campaign. At Lansdowne Road, a Tony Grealish equaliser cancelled out an early Albert Cluytens goal.

There was considerable Irish heartbreak on a rainy night in Brussels in the reverse fixture. Jan Ceulemans 88th- minute goal in Belgium's 1-0 win proved to be hugely significant.

Belgium went on to qualify for the 1982 World Cup as group winners, with France in second place and the Republic of Ireland in third separated only by goal difference.

The defining image of another fruitless campaign was surely that of those on the Irish bench, all with head in hands, after the concession of the late goal in Belgium.

Jack Charlton had succeeded Eoin Hand when the Republic of Ireland returned to Brussels in 1986.

A glance at the starting eleven shows the quality at the new manager's disposal; Bonner, Hughton, Lawrenson, Moran, Langan, Galvin, McGrath, Brady, Houghton, Aldridge, Stapleton, with Beglin and Whelan on as substitutes.

The late drama on this occasion centred on Liam Brady's successful 89th-minute penalty. With one point secured after a 2-2 draw it was an encouraging start for Charlton in his first qualifying campaign.

A scoreless draw in Dublin the following year came on the back of a famous 1-0 win in Scotland. Ultimately Euro ‘88 qualification was secured.

A place at the 1998 World Cup in France was the prize on offer when the sides met next in the play-offs.

Denis Irwin's free-kick flew past Filip de Wilde to give Ireland the early lead at Lansdowne Road.

Belgium returned home with a 1-1 draw thanks to a Luc Nilis equaliser. Nilis was the match winner in the return leg, with Belgium winning 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

After their 2-0 defeat to a highly impressive Italian side is it the ideal time to play Belgium?

The inevitable question now raised is can this 'golden generation' of players fulfil their undoubted potential?

With individual talent in abundance, the collective, it seems, is still a work in progress.

World Cup quarter-finalists two years ago, Belgium did qualify for France as group winners, but Marc Wilmot's side only won a single point in the two games with Wales, and an 86th-minute goal from Eden Hazard was needed to win in Cyprus.

I'll be in Lyon ahead of Northern Ireland's second Group C game with Ukraine.

The tragic death of Darren Rodgers will be marked by the IFA.

Republic of Ireland fans have already done that and their singing at Stade de France of ‘Stand up for the Ulstermen' showed real sensitivity and class.