Ireland v Sweden, Monday June 13
St Denis, Live on BBC, 5pm
Unbeaten at home in five qualification matches, including a 1-0 demolition (ahem) of world champions Germany at the Aviva Stadium, and tough to beat away from home, Ireland ensured that qualification Group D was very much a three-horse race right up to the last round of matches. Ultimately beaten into third place, just four points behind group winners Germany, Ireland required a play-off victory to secure their place in France, where they promise to be a tough nut to crack in Group E.
- In the group stages, they won 5 games, drew 3 and lost 2, scoring 19 goals, conceding 7 and ending up with a +12 goal difference.
It’s safe to say Sweden didn’t set the world alight during their Euro 2016 campaign winning just five of their games and featuring a demoralising 1-4 home defeat to eventual group winners Austria. Zlatan Ibrahimović will once again be Sweden’s key man at the finals, but the Swedes need a few others to step up to the plate if they are to get out of a tough Group E.
- In the group stages, they won 5 games, drew 3 and lost 2, scoring 15 goals, conceding 9 and ending up with a +6 goal difference.
On paper this game looks to be both Ireland and Sweden’s best opportunity of picking up three points – the other two teams in the group Belgium and Italy should certainly provide tougher opposition. There’s an argument to say that should the game still be level late on in the game then both these teams may go all out for the win in order to give themselves the best opportunity of escaping the group.
Ireland have proven themselves to be defensively resolute, restricting world champions Germany to just one goal over the course of two qualifying matches.
- Ireland also get stronger as the game goes on, they took the highest percentage of shots in the second half of matches of any side at the finals (61.5%).
- Sweden can be defensively frail, and they were one of only two qualifiers to lose a qualifying match by three or more goals. They were also the dirtiest team to have qualified, averaging 13.0 fouls per match and Ireland will relish any opportunity to put free kicks into the Swedish penalty area.
This game could be a classic. Both teams will look to get their tournament off to a flyer, and I don’t see either team settling for a draw.
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