Monday, 13 June 2016

Ireland vs Sweden Euro 2016 Football Match Preview And Prediction - June 13, 2016


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The Republic of Ireland and Sweden will kick off the proceedings in Group E at Saint-Denis' Stade de France on Monday. With Belgium and Italy favourites to reach Euro 2016's knockout rounds, this contest will be vital for either side to make a surprise push for the round of 16.

Ewan MacKenna (Ireland) and Mattias Karen (Sweden) look ahead to Monday's showdown.
What's at stake here?

Ewan MacKenna: More than should be in an opening game where it's usually tentative, coy and with both sides refusing to gamble on a step forward given the risk of taking two paces back. But the advancement of some third-placed nations ought to change that dynamic, especially given this is a group that contains a pair of perhaps only six teams who can genuinely believe they've a chance to win it all. Thus for Ireland, everything is up for grabs as a victory should see them progress to the round of 16, while a point or less will have them thinking deep down it gets much harder from here -- probably too hard.

Mattias Karen: This game could well decide which of these teams advances to the knockout stage along with Belgium and Italy. Sweden and Ireland are both a size smaller than their two other group opponents, meaning a loss for either in this game would be disastrous. Sweden had a similar situation in 2012 and lost their first game against Ukraine, which set them on their way to early elimination. Coach Erik Hamren must show he has learned from his mistakes to avoid a similar fate this time.
Key battle

MacKenna: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. John O'Shea. When a former international remarked in the build-up that his fear was the Swedish star would drift toward the weak link in defence, the obvious question was which one? But despite club form that has seen him relegated to the bench, the Sunderland man at least has experience, although he'll need help from his partner on the edge of the box -- there are murmurs it might be Shane Duffy due to his presence at 6-foot-4 -- and from James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan to cover the space in front. O'Shea won't keep Ibrahimovic quiet, but limiting the noise would be a good platform as there's not a whole lot else facing them that can cause a racket.

Karen: Ibrahimovic squaring up to Roy Keane on the sideline would of course be the ultimate machismo matchup, but perhaps that's too much to hope for. On the pitch, this will be a battle of two ageing strikers: Ibrahimovic vs. Robbie Keane. Both are their country's all-time leading scorer, and their teams' success in France largely depends on whether they can add to those tallies. Based on current form, Ibrahimovic obviously has the edge.
Star man

MacKenna: If the key battle seems negative in a game in which Ireland have every chance, Shane Long is the flip side. He's in the form of his life, his running is a whole lot smarter than in recent seasons, his power is troublesome and his finishing is good. If Wes Hoolahan can turn vision into openings for the Southampton striker, then the opposition have their own headache. After all, while Ireland might be lightweight at the back, that Long likely comes up against a couple of centre-halves playing in Russia and Denmark in Andreas Granqvist and Erik Johansson makes this a very fair fight.

Karen: Ibrahimovic is the easy choice, but I'll go with Andreas Isaksson. The veteran goalkeeper is playing his last international tournament and will have to be at his best in France for the Swedes to go anywhere. Sweden can score goals, the question is whether they can keep them out.
Prediction

MacKenna: And after all that, 1-1. It seems to regularly be the case and while it will leave manager Martin O'Neill talking about the positives of not losing and setting a tone, it will also leave the nation pondering the what ifs and, more importantly, the what now.

Karen: Sweden win 2-1. These are two fairly evenly matched teams, but Ibrahimovic's star power should make the difference.

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