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5 things to know about Ireland's Group E opponents Sweden

A closer look at the opponents for Ireland’s campaign opener.

Euro regulars

Sweden v Wales - International Friendly - Friends Arena Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

SWEDEN HAD NEVER come through qualifying to go to a European Championship finals until getting to Euro 2000. They reached the 1992 semi-finals after qualifying automatically as the host nation. However, they have now qualified for five consecutive editions of the continental showpiece, with their best show in that time an appearance in the quarter-finals in Portugal in 2004. On that occasion a 2-2 draw with Denmark in the final round of group games saw both Scandinavian nations advance from their group at the expense of Italy. The Swedes then lost on penalties to the Netherlands in the last eight.

Poor record in knockout games

Sweden v Wales - International Friendly - Friends Arena Coach Erik Hamren. Source: Joe Giddens

The Swedes have not won a knockout round tie at a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup in the United States, when they finished third. They beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 in the last 16 and then needed penalties to beat Romania before losing 1-0 to eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals. Since then, they have been beaten in the last 16 on each of their last two appearances at the World Cup, in 2002 and 2006. They have never won a knockout match at a European Championship, losing 3-2 to Germany as hosts at the semi-final stage in 1992 and then succumbing on penalties to the Dutch in 2004.

World Cup 1958

Sweden are the only nation to lose the final of a World Cup as the host nation. In 1958 they were beaten 5-2 by the Brazil of Vava and Pele at the Rasunda Stadium despite captain Nils Liedholm giving them an early lead. The Brazilians were the runners-up as hosts in 1950, but while they lost out to Uruguay, their infamous defeat at the Maracana came in what turned out to be the deciding match in a round-robin group of four teams rather than an actual final.

Reliance on Zlatan

Sweden v Wales - International Friendly - Friends Arena Zlatan is Sweden's talisman. Source: Joe Giddens

While it might be unfair to call Sweden a one-man team, they are heavily reliant on the class of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The departing Paris Saint-Germain striker is his country’s all-time leading scorer with 62 international goals, surpassing Sven Rydell’s mark of 49 goals, which stood for more than 80 years, in 2014. Ibrahimovic scored eight of Sweden’s 15 goals in their qualifying group and then got three in a 4-3 aggregate win against Denmark in the play-offs to qualify for France.

Under-21 champions

If Sweden were to win the Euro, they would emulate the achievement of their under-21 side, who were crowned European champions in the Czech Republic last year. Hakan Ericson’s side sprang a surprise as they beat a fancied Portugal 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final in Prague. A team containing Benfica defender Victor Lindelof and Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti had previously beaten Denmark 4-1 in the semi-finals as Sweden became European champions in the age group for the first time.

- © AFP, 2016

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