Green, green ice of Friends Arena to greet Ireland

The exterior of Stockholm’s Friends Arena was turned green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day at the weekend, but groundstaff have a way to go to make the pitch green for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Ireland.

Less than a week before the game, there was not a single blade of grass to be seen in the 50,000-seat arena, with the playing surface covered by a thick layer of ice for the national finals of the winter sport of bandy.

Asked last week if he was worried about the turnaround from ice to grass, Sweden coach Erik Hamren laughed as he answered: “Truly? Yes!”

Hamren spoke of the “teething problems” experienced by the pitch at the new arena, which cut up badly in the inaugural 4-2 win over England, although the surface did not seem to bother Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic who netted four goals.

“The first game against England it was not the quality I want,” Hamren said. “The last game against Argentina it was really good and it’s going to be really good when we play against Ireland, I’m sure of that.”

Ground staff at the new multi-purpose arena will be working around the clock to melt ice, drain away the water and lay the pitch for the Ireland game.

“To move in the grass is not the problem,” team manager Lars Richt told Reuters. “The bigger problem is to have the ice and all the water off the pitch.”


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