So, this was the match that I got in my ticket application. Who to support? Well, Ace Of Base are better than Westlife.
As a bonus, i’d be getting to see Zlatan in the flesh in his current city, which he will be leaving this summer, unless he makes a sensational transfer to French second tier side Red Star.
I’m not sure if it’s a tribute or just a natural thing, but the vast majority of Swedish men look like Zlatan. That is based on those that were at the Stade De France.
Both teams arrived in France looking to improve on their recent European history. Republic of Ireland almost reached the Semi-Finals in 1988, but didn’t qualify again for 24 years, where they lost all three games.
Sweden reached the Semi-Finals as hosts in 1992, but didn’t qualify for the next one. In the four tournaments since, they’ve been eliminated at the group stage in three of them.
With Belgium and Italy in this group, qualifying automatically will be difficult. Both teams viewed the other as a match they can get points from as a springboard ahead of games against Belgium and Italy.
For all the talk of Zlatan, it was Martin Olsson who was Sweden’s main man in the early moments, getting into crossing positions down the left hand side.
Jeff Hendrick had Republic Of Ireland’s first attempt on goal when he forced Isaksson to tip his shot around the post.
John O’Shea was soon frustrated when he couldn’t his foot onto a ball that was rolling across the penalty area.
Robbie Brady joined the list of frustrated Irish players when his shot went just over. Republic Of Ireland were having the better of the play but having nothing to show for it.
Hendrick was frustrated again, hitting the bar.
Zlatan wasn’t having the best of afternoons. The ploy to stop him, stop the supply. If you can’t stop the supply, get as many players near him when he gets the ball. Simple, but effective.
Like Poland, the day before, Republic Of Ireland made up for not getting a first-half goal when on top by getting an early second-half goal.
Seamus Coleman crossed the ball, finding Wes Hoolahan who fired home.
The goal, spurred Sweden into action, having a lot of pressure on the Irish goal. It looked inevitable that an equaliser would be only minutes away. Emil Forsberg should have had it when he fired wide from a corner.
Despite riding out the initial Swedish storm, the shadow of Zlatan was still there, getting in front of his man to steal a few yards, but his volley went just wide. A few inches inside, we would have been talking about a top class goal.
Zlatan then showed all he needs is a few yards when he got enough space to pull back a cross, which was headed into his own net by Ciaran Clark.
Republic Of Ireland were deflated by that goal. They didn’t look like they would be able to go back in front again. They countered that by having enough about them to keep Sweden out.
A match that both sides needed to win meandered to a draw. Defeats for both sides on Matchday 2 sees them both staring into the abyss, but both knowing that a win on Matchday 3 will offer them salvation. It will be a tough ask.