Ireland V Sweden – Euro 2016 Preview

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It’s without doubt one of the hottest tickets of the tournament. When Ireland’s group was decided there was mass panic as to just how everyone would go about getting tickets.

When the figures were announced by the FAI as to just how many Irish were looking for tickets it has to be said most didn’t think they stood a chance, with over 275,00 ticket applications made for the three group games.

With only 26,000 tickets up for grabs and thousands more planing to make the trip it’s clear most will be on their way to France ticketless this summer, but not me.

I will be heading to the first game of the tournament, having booked up in December the months have come and gone so quickly and it’s hard to believe the competition will start in a matter of weeks.

So Sweden? Speaking as a proud Irish woman I will always go with my heart over my head and expect nothing less than a win in our first game. Is that realistic? Maybe not but I’m sure all the Irish that descend on the French capital will be in high hopes.

Previous meetings between the two would suggest Sweden have the upper hand with Ireland’s record in ten matches against them not the greatest W3 D2 L5 (W0 D2 L4 in competitive fixtures).

The teams were in the same qualifying group for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Sweden came from behind to win 2-1 in Dublin, with goals from Johan Elmander and Anders Svensson, after drawing 0-0 in Solna, yet neither country made it to Brazil.

Lets be honest I can’t imagine head coach Erik Hamrén was thrilled to see his side drawn against Ireland but I think it’s fair to say he will be the happier of the two managers going into this fixture.

Sweden come to France unbeaten in four competitive games. They finished third in their qualifying group with the record W5 D3 L2. They then overcame Denmark 4-3 on aggregate in a play-off to book their place in France.

Martin O’Neill’s men also finished third in their qualifying group with a record of W5 D3 L2 and then defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 on aggregate in the play-offs.

So who do the Irish need to watch out for? I think that one is pretty simple – Zlatan Ibrahimović a legend of the game for his antics on and off the pitch. He was the second highest scorer in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying with 11 goals – including three in the play-offs.

He could really show up Ireland this summer, and that’s my only real fear when it comes to Sweden, he’s a one man show and it doesn’t take much for him to destroy defences.

It’s not all doom and gloom for us though as we look at some of our talent. First I must mention Darren Randolph who thoroughly deserves his spot in the side. Then there is the obvious choices to make the starting XI like Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Jon Walters who has been nothing short of heroic for Ireland over the last few months in particular.

Also can’t forget about Shane Long, without him this years summer would certainly have been a pretty boring one for us Irish as his goal against Germany helped us secure a third spot over Scotland who allowed Ireland capitalise after defeat to Georgia.

One thing is certain our first game of the tournament is set to be a cracker, the only question I have now is when can we get the bunting out?