Sweden’s elder statesmen have been imparting their tournament knowledge to their budding stars as they try to get the balance of excitement and relaxation right for facing Ireland.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson are among those to have experienced the Euros on numerous occasions and, as the build-up to Monday’s Group E clash against Ireland intensifies, they’ve been doing their best to temper the apprehension within the set-up.
Several of Erik Hamren’s squad were part of last year’s U21 European Championship success. For all the talent which the likes of John Guidetti and Oscar Lewicki bring to the table, their more seasoned team-mates are eager to ensure they peak at the right time.
“Rest is just as important as training for the game against Ireland on Monday”, said Isaksson, who has recovered from the back injury which forced him off at half-time during Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Wales.
“As a group, we have discussed not being overly anxious. That would involve using up a lot of energy when the batteries should be charged for the match,” he said.
Veteran Kallstrom is a certainty to occupy one of those midfield berths against Ireland for what will be his fourth Euros.
The centurion, currently playing in Switzerland for Grasshopper, will take leave with captain Ibrahimovic from international football after the finals and wants to exit the stage replete with good memories. “The first match is a huge need to match for us and for Ireland,” said Kallstrom, who joined Arsenal briefly in 2014.
“Ireland might have been known as team with a British style but they have improved as a team and recorded some brilliant victories on their way to qualifying.
“For us, I think we must play with our minds as well as our feet. We did exactly that in the playoff against Denmark, when we were not fancied but came through to qualify.”
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, has urged his teammates to seize the moment by making an impact in France.
“We are the underdogs for qualifying from the group,” said the 34-year-old.
“There is some tough competition in the pool but we must believe in ourselves because I’m sure we will succeed.
“Anything can happen at the finals. We have worked hard in preparation and will go into the tournament full of confidence.”
He feels the challenge laid down to the emerging stars of the team is one they should relish.
“It can take time to step up to the senior level from the U21s but they have been given the chance and now they must take it,” said the frontman.
“Oscar Lewicki has taken on the responsibility very well and the Euros will be a big stage for him to perform.
“John Guidetti is a striker I’ve worked a lot with in the past few months.
“There is a lot of potential in him but he must not waste his energy on what he doesn’t need to do.”
Meanwhile, the FAI has appointed Jason Donohue as the new head coach of the Republic of Ireland U15 national team.
Donohue said: “I’m delighted to get this role. I view it as a great honour. Having been assistant coach for three years and worked with all of the international teams from U19 down I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to be head coach of the U15s.”
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