Five key battles between Ireland and Sweden

We look at the key match-ups and who will come out on top...

Shane Long v Andreas Granqvist

Neither central defensive partnership on display this evening have age on their side but Sweden’s backline is particularly showing the signs of wear and tear.

Granqvist will certainly start, meaning Shane Long could have a field day.

Against the pace of the Ireland striker, the 31-year-old will surely struggle like he did in the latter part of the campaign and the friendlies since.

Victor Nilsson-Lindelöf was the star of Sweden’s U21 Euros win but, fortunately for Ireland, the indications are Erik Hamrén will favour experience by deploying Erik Johansson, the tall FC Copenhagen defender also susceptible to a nippy striker such as Long.

Verdict:

Long.

James McCarthy v Kim Kallstrom

McCarthy hasn’t played for almost a month, having been wrapped in cotton wool to protect his ongoing hamstring trouble, but he’ll be heavily relied upon to not alone boss the midfield area but also supply some creativity to the forward line.

Kallstrom will have designs on keeping the Everton man quiet and it was telling that the veteran talked throughout the build-up of Sweden playing as much with their minds as their feet.

Three years ago in Stockholm, McCarthy had one of his best games in a green shirt against the Swedes and he must deliver again despite concerns over his match fitness.

Verdict:

McCarthy

John O’Shea v Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The clash of the thirtysomethings could be one of the decisive factors in the tie. While the Swedish captain has completed another sensational season, Ireland’s likely skipper is rather ring-rusty following a campaign in which he featured sporadically at Sunderland.

Neither stalwart is blessed with pace but O’Shea may have trouble containing the power and vision of Ibrahimovic, who is equally dominant in the air and on the ground.

Verdict:

Ibrahimovic

Seamus Coleman v Emil Forsberg

Forsberg was considered the emerging force of the Sweden side even before he opened the scoring eight days ago against Wales and his threat on the left wing is certain to test Coleman.

It must be remembered that, amid all the hype, Forsberg was operating in the second tier of German football last season until his Red Bull Leipzig side clinched promotion to the Bundesliga. An undoubted talent but Coleman has hackled better wingers in the Premier League.

Verdict:

Coleman

Martin O’Neill v Erik Hamrén

Both men overcome critical analysis as their Euro campaigns stuttered along but, unlike O’Neill, Hamrén isn’t staying on after the tournament.

Hamrén has a limited CV, managing in Denmark and Norway before taking the national team job and his tenure, both in terms of result and style, over the six-and-a-half years since has not endeared him to the Swedish public.

His biggest achievement, unquestionably, is getting the best years out of Ibrahimovic and the bond between the pair was evident yesterday as they chimed in their outlook at the pre-match press conference.

Verdict:

O’Neill

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