By Alan Smith
Rarely has a scoreless draw been celebrated with such vigour but, in the circumstances, this meant almost as much as a win for some Irish players.
Without sounding crass, the selection furore in the 24 hours running up to the game had left Ireland quivering at the thought of Zlatan in the Stockholm freeze.
But in the end, and despite not registering a single shot on target, this was a hugely positive result.
However, three points on Tuesday night, when Austria come to Dublin, is now a must and anything other than that will have undone all the good work.
Robbie Keane, while quite ineffective in attack, had a long night chasing down Sweden in a deep role before being subbed off with 15 to play. While he admitted neither side deserved to win the game, he was clearly delighted to get a point and accentuated the importance of beating Austria in three days time.
“We’re targeting four points and we have to move on. Nobody deserved to get the three points tonight, there were a few half-chances for either side, nothing too much,” the skipper said afterwards.
“The way we played from start to finish was superb but we need to move on to Tuesday’s game.
It will probably have to be a little different approach than what we had tonight but we’re certainly happy with it.”
Keane felt that the Irish defence stopped the hosts from playing to their full ability, while he also singled out special praise for some of the newer faces in the squad.
“We stopped them from playing, hunted in packs and it was clear to see that, specifically in the first 42 minutes. We stopped them from playing, got the back as quickly as possible and then started playing ourselves which we did very well,” Keane added.
“For such a young inexperienced team to come here against a very experienced Swedish team, you have to give them credit for that. We didn’t let Sweden play. They weren’t bad, we just executed our game-plan well and we should get the credit for that.”
Jon Walters wasn’t initially named in Giovanni Trapattoni’s team but after Glenn Whelan’s injury ruled him out of the starting line-up, the shuffled pack included the Stoke man on the right flank.
He was quite happy with his evening’s work but above all reiterated the importance of getting the three points on Tuesday.
"We'll take that point and go in to the Austria game looking for three. They had a win against the Faroes so will go above us. We're happy with the point and hopefully we can take Sweden when we play them at home.
"It was all about working hard for each other, holding our shape and hoping for a bit of luck. We had a few chances but so did they near the end as well. It could have gone either way.”
As for his late inclusion: "I didn't know too much about it until today. You're always prepared for playing. If you're on the bench, you can come on after a minute so you always get ready to play. With some managers, you never know. And it proved to be the case today.”
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic anonymous for long spells, it was a quieter night than most would have expected for the back four. John O’Shea was named as the official man of the match – even if RTE awarded it to James McCarthy – and the Waterford man took great pride from the result.
“We wanted a positive start first 20 minutes and I thought we were fantastic, we caught Sweden on the hop and could have gone one nil up. It would have been deserved and it set the tempo for rest of game,” he said.
“We knew that they would come back strong but we were able to cope with that. The cohesion as a unit was fantastic. We made them lose the ball, we pressurised them. It was an all-round good team performance.”
Wes Hoolahan, meanwhile, was introduced for Keane and although many would have felt the Norwich City man deserved more time on the field, he was happy with his cameo.
“It was a great result, we played really well and created a few chances. They didn’t look like a threat at all and it was a great point to get,” he said.
“There was great shape there and we were unlucky not to score with the chances we created. It could have been a win but we’re happy with the draw.
“This was great for the group and it bodes well for Tuesday, hopefully we can go and get the result.”