Martin O’Neill sees Ireland's group rivals Sweden stroll past Wales

Sweden 3 Wales 0
Martin O’Neill was in Stockholm yesterday to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic lead Sweden to a stroll over Wales in their final warm-up game before next Monday’s Euro 2016 opener against Ireland.

A troublesome calf problem had kept their captain out of Sweden’s stalemate with Slovenia but his presence and influence was clear during his return which lasted an hour before he made way.

Ibra – who revealed an announcement on his club future will be made tomorrow amid reports he’s agreed to become Jose Mourinho’s first Manchester United signing – teed up Emil Forsberg for the opener five minutes before the break. 

Celtic’s influence on the Swedish side was illustrated in the second-half as Hoops full-back Mikael Lustig doubled the lead shortly after the restart and substitute John Guidetti, previously on loan at Parkhead, made it 3-0 on 87 minutes.

With his transfer business set for conclusion before the squad reconvene Wednesday for their departure to France, Ibrahimovic has Ireland in his sights for the start of his international swansong. 

Three goals and a clean sheet against a side which had Gareth Bale leading the attack for the last half hour pleased most Swedish players and fans but their lynchpin insists there’s improvements needed on the training pitch in Saint- Nazaire they take up residence at in midweek.

“Yes, we can take confidence from this win but there is still much work to do,” said the 34-year-old. “We can play much better at the Euros.”

Although appearances yesterday by recent injury concerns Martin Olsson and Albin Ekdal represented a boost for Swedish boss Erik Hamrén, a fresh concern arose when goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson was forced off at the break. 

The veteran stopper, whose saves kept Slovenia scoreless on Monday, admitted his felt soreness in his back.

“That injury is annoying,” said Hamrén. “It’s a hip injury, hopefully not too dangerous.”

Sweden started with a more familiar side than the experimental selection from Monday and it showed as they had Wales in trouble from the early exchanges. 

Lustig angled Kim Kallstrom’s corner just over with five minutes played and it took a block from Welsh skipper Ashley Williams to deny Marcus Berg pocketing the breakthrough.

Ibrahimovic was the con duit for of the hosts’ attacks and he punished hesitancy by Wales for the opener when darting down the left and squaring to the edge of the area for Forsberg to drive home a low shot. 

The carnival atmosphere within the Friends Arena intensified 12 minutes into the second-half when Lustig peeled off his marker from a corner to beat substitute goalkeeper Danny Ward from close range.

Bale entered the fray shortly afterwards to make his influence count but the Swedish defence held firm, restricting the Real Madrid man to a couple of half-chances from distance.

All the clinical finishing on the day fell to Sweden, who plundered a third late on through Guitetti. 

The Celta Viga man broke his inter national duck at the ninth attempt by brushing off a challenge from Williams.

Asked on Swedish TV yesterday how Ireland hoped to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Paris, Martin O’Neill quipped: “Stop Ibrahimovic? Well, we will try and infiltrate the Swedish camp and try and put something in his tea beforehand.”

SWEDEN: Isaksson (Olsen 46); Lustig, Johansson, Granqvist, Olsson (Augus tinsson 46); Larsson, Kallstrom, Lewicki (Ekdal 61), Forsberg; Berg (Guidetti 76) Ibrahimovic (Durmaz 61)

WALES: Hennessey (Ward 46); Gunter, Chester (Collins 65) A Williams, Davies, Taylor; Vaughan (Edwards 65), King (Bale 65) Ramsey, J Williams (Huws 72); Vokes.

Referee: Tobias Welz (Germany).


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