Republic of Ireland vs Sweden | Friday 06 September | Dublin | 20:45
In a group dominated by a resurgent German side, there is a real clamour for the second place position that will likely result in a playoff. Three teams are separated by the thin margin that is goal difference and this is going to be a crunch encounter. Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland side lay fourth in the group, but with Austria facing a daunting away trip to Germany there is every opportunity that this could prove a decisive fixture in the entire group dynamic. The Republic will be buoyed by the fact that they drew the reverse fixture in Sweden, in a match in which they had numerous chances to win the game. Sweden will however be looking towards the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic to press his quality on the game.
Republic of Ireland 17/10
Republic of Ireland
The Republic won’t be taking home advantage too lightly considering their rather embarrassing 6-1 defeat at the hands of the mighty Germans earlier in the group. They will be hoping that Keane and Long can convert some of the chances that they spurned in the reverse leg of this fixture. It will be interesting to see exactly what type of formation Trapattoni will decide to use considering the fact that this is almost a must-win home fixture. Keane, Walters and Long can be used at the head of an expansive 4-3-3 formation, while Long can drop back into a more conservative 4-4-2. Perhaps he will start with the more conservative approach and feel his way into the game.
Vital to the Republic’s cause will be the ability of their full-backs to get into more advanced positions. Coleman and Wilson were both influential in the first leg, bombing down the wings and supplying some added dimension to attack. But it was McClean and new Everton signing McCarthy who really impressed in the first game and it will be interesting to see how the midfield lines up with Green, Whelan and St Ledger in contention. The youthful exuberance of the Irish midfield looks to be the most powerful aspect of their squad. Their fans will be hoping that Trapattoni releases the shackles and allows them to play in a fashion that can dictate the tempo of the match. O’Shea and Clarke will likely have their hands full with the skill and strength of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sweden are a team who, like the Republic of Ireland, have a proud tradition of making more of their side than the sum of its parts. Zlatan is the obvious superstar in the squad whose presence doesn’t seem to alienate but rather elevate. Sweden know that if they were to draw and Germany did the business against Austria, then they would be in the pole position for second spot. But considering the fact that they have only beaten minnows thus far, it is critical that Sweden also try and edge a victory in this match. Manager Erik Hamren has urged his side to go for the win; not wanting to rely too heavily on other teams slipping up later.
Lustig and Granqvist would usually will try to contain Coleman and Wilson, but the latter’s suspension could make that a more difficult proposition. Larsson could be the man who can open up the Irish defence with precision passing as well as his dead ball proficiency. The injury to Rasmus Elm could prove costly as Hamren reshuffles his midfield combinations. Kacaniklic also could offer some attacking flair to a team with a rather workmanlike composition as he returns to the squad. But the real threat they pose hinges on whether Ibra can disrupt O’Shea and Clarke sufficiently.
VERDICT: Republic of Ireland 17/10
The importance of this match should rally both teams to attack and likely score. But given the occasion and the bedlam that will await the players in Dublin I fancy the home team to find a way through. Players such as McCarthy will be hugely motivated and John Walters may be the unfashionable hero for the home team in a game that they desperately have to win.
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