Ireland vs Sweden by Sweem
Stade de France is the setting, and Euro 2016 is the tournament as we continue to cruise through the group stages each and every day. Sweden arrive with hopes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be..Zlatan, while the Irish will have a magnificent support and rely on their hard working unit on the pitch who are fully capable of making life difficult for many teams.
In a group with Italy and Belgium, this becomes an immediate key game for both teams. A loss would be absolutely devastating for both teams, hence we should probably not expect any risky style of football here. These are two obvious underdogs who even potentially could steal points against Belgium and Italy on their day. The opening game for these teams brings the same challenge for both of them - avoid a loss.
Ireland have currently scored in 11 straight matches and the last time they failed to get on the score sheet was in June 2015 in a friendly game against England (0-0). Taking into account that Ireland had the best defensive record in their qualifying group consisting of Poland, Germany and Scotland being the main threats, it shows that the hard working unit are really stingy on both ends of the pitch.
More astonoshing, while one might not typically think of Ireland as a solid team, their number justifies that they are an extemely difficult team to beat. Only Scotland and Poland have managed to beat Ireland since 2014 in competitive matches (not counting friendlies). Shane Long will obviously play a key part for Irelands chances not only against Sweden, but in the group overall. His pace and movement can absolutely harm the Swedish defenders who are tall, strong but very static and uncomfortable with the feet.
Ireland received a well needed boost as Jonathan Walters (5 goals in 10 qualifiers games) completed a full training session. The same goes for Robbie Keane, Robbie Brady and James McCarthy who all trained without any problems.
Sweden finished third in their group behind Austria and Russia, and therefore had to qualify against their old foes Denmark to clinch their ticket to the party in France, in other words - a very similar journey as Ireland who also had to pass playoff against Bosnia & Herzegovina to get here. The Swedes have experienced a mixed pre-tournament preparation, and even though they struggled to line up victories ahead of the tournament, it is easy to say that they are tough to beat.
Only Turkey managed to win against Sweden during the pre-friendly matches, while Czech republic stood their ground for a 1-1 tie. Sweden showed very little against Slovenia at home in a 0-0 draw but came up large in the final match against Wales in a 3-0 victory, providing a well needed boost ahead of the vital match.
Sweden usually plays with a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Ibrahimovic and most likely Marcus Berg will pair up in the attack. In form winger Emil Forsberg are coming off a strong season with Leipzig and have carried over his fine play to the national team and been widely praised for his recent performances - a good Euro tournament from his part can likely see him move to a bigger league.
However, Sweden might be the biggest so called "one man teams" in the tournament, being incredibly dependant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic performances, and obivously each opponent will know this in order to neutralize Sweden's offensive threats.
Sweden have the upper hand in terms of head to head fixtures with 5 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses against Ireland, but have never lost against Ireland in competitive situations. However, when concluding the entire picture and consider that it is an opening game where both teams will be very cautious about their actions - a goal galore is not to be expected.
Safety first would be a suitable headline for this match but at the end of the day both sides would probably enjoy a point in the opener, and then battle the big teams for the needed points to progress. The teams are evenly matches on all positions except attack where Sweden can rely on magic from Ibrahimovic, but a draw feels like a very reasonable outcome and deserves a couple of units in my book since it's two teams who rarely lose in competitive fixtures, especially as of late.