While Ireland rest, Sweden already in match mode

While Ireland were resting up yesterday, Sweden intensified their build-up to Monday’s Euro Group E opener by undergoing a 105-minute open training session at Saint-Nazaire.

While Ireland rest, Sweden already in match mode

Three days out from the game, Erik Hamrén’s players certainly had their game-face on as an eight-a-side round-robin provoked some feisty challenges and even entailed a skirmish of sorts between a couple of team-mates.

John Guidetti, known from his days at Manchester City and Celtic as a player easily riled, wasn’t prepared to allow an exchange with Albin Ekdal be confined to the pitch and they continued to squabble on the sideline as the other two teams fought it out for the bragging rights.

Former Aston Villa striker Marcus Allback, now Hamrén assistant, was enlisted to complete the 24-man quota for the series and, though Zlatan Ibrahimovi´c unleashed a loud roar upon scoring for his team, he was none too impressed watching Seb Larsson’s side celebrate wildly in the centre-circle as if winning the three-way resembled progressing from the group stages of the Euros.

Competitive spirit is alive and kicking in the Swedish camp.

Hamrén admits part of that mindset has been infused by the role of Paul Balsom in the set-up.

Paul who?

He may be hardly a household name but the Swedes was credited by Claudio Ranieri as an intrinsic part of Leicester City’s shock Premier League title success.

Balsom, as head of sports science for both Sweden and Leicester, works fervently behind the scenes to provide his two employers with an edge in what is increasingly becoming a game of fine margins.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a known admirer of the techniques, noting over the past week that some of his younger teammates in the Swedish set-up should concentrate more on conserving rather than expending energy needlessly.

“Paul has done brilliantly both for us and Leicester City,” explained Hamrén, who has already confirmed he is stepping down after the finals.

“Through his work with the new Premier League champions, we have taken on their expression which is - “believe the unbelievable”.

“We are realists too because Sweden is the fourth seeds in Group E behind Ireland. But if you don’t believe, the mission is impossible.

“I know that the players are confident and there is a strong sense that we can progress into the knockout stages.

“There is a lot of work required and the players have prepared very well in Sweden and since we arrived in France.”

Hamrén’s admission that a couple of starting slots for Monday’s encounter are undecided was apparent by the pace of yesterday’s session.

Specifically, the centre-back role beside Andreas Granqvist is in the balance, with the rising star from their reigning U21 European Champions, Victor Lindelöf, battling for the nod.

Jimmy Durmaz is competing with Larsson for the slot on the right side of midfield, while one of the central berths seems to between Ekdal and Oscar Lewicki.

Up front, Marcus Berg is favourite to partner Zlatan but Guidetti’s goalscoring performance against Wales on Sunday, albeit from the bench, is giving the boss a dilemma.

“The training sessions have been sharp,” admitted Durmaz yesterday. “There’s only a few days to go now and we can’t wait to kick off against Ireland.

“We’ve been keeping busy in the hotel by playing table-tennis and chess but the game is getting closer and we’re all very excited.

I’m not sure if I will start the game but my preparation is based upon the assumption of being in the team.

“These are the occasions we all want to part of. Ireland have their strengths but so too do we.”

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