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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019

Expert view: What can Ireland expect from Sweden tonight and how do they rate us?

We get the views of Swedish journalist Anders Sannas Lundqvist of Dagens Nyheter ahead of the Group E opener.

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

- Ben Blake reports from the Stade de France, Saint-Denis

Hi Anders, thanks for talking to me. What are the general thoughts in Sweden on Monday’s game?

The general feeling is that they must win this game. They think this is the key match to get further into the tournament.

With Italy and Belgium also to come, is the Ireland match seen as the most winnable? 

It is. The coach won’t say it but the fans think that is the case.

When people think of the Swedish team, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is understandably the first player that comes to mind. He scored 11 goals in qualifying but what sort of form has he been in at international level? 

When Erik Hamren took over as manager, he gave Zlatan a new role. He wasn’t even the team at the time so he had to persuade him to come back.

At that point, he was handed the captaincy and if you look at the goals he has scored for Sweden, two-thirds of them have come under the current coach.

Remember that Hamren became manager in 2009, but Ibrahimovic has been playing for the national team for 2001. He has been producing his best football and he gets to play exactly how he wants to in the national team — as the leader.

So are Sweden really a one-man team or do they possess other players that Ireland need to pay extra attention to? 

I would say they need to keep an eye on our left winger Emil Forsberg. He plays for Leipzig and took them up to the Bundesliga. He has matured as an international player over the last year. We haven’t seen the best of him yet but he could be a sensation here.

Sweden won the Uefa European U21 Championships a year ago, but have many of that team have been able to break into the senior side?  

Hamren is trying to put some of the U21s into this team and a number of them are in the squad, but the only one who could be a starter against Ireland is Oscar Lewicki of Malmo.

The others are on the waiting list, so to speak, but Victor Lindelof could also earn a place in the first XI at some stage in the tournament. The centre-back had a amazing season after coming into the Benfica team and playing in the Champion League.

When they picked the U21 squad for last year’s European Championships, he wasn’t initially in it but was called up due to an injury. He then went on to be in the team of the tournament.

Soccer - UEFA European Under-21 Championship - Final - Sweden v Portugal - Eden Stadium Midfielder Oscar Lewicki has made the step up from the U21 team which won the European Championships in 2015. Source: EMPICS Sport

How can we expect Sweden to line up against Ireland?

It will definitely be a 4-4-2 because that is what they have been successful playing. More or less all Swedish players have grown up with that system so it’s very easy for the players coming back from abroad to play in the international team.

How do the Swedish view this current Ireland team? 

I think it has its ups and down because you have some class players and you have others who are unknown to Swedish fans. The likes of Robbie Keane and Shane Long would be the big names known in Sweden.

Is there much known about Ireland’s management team in Sweden? 

I have seen Roy Keane play many times and he is a tough guy. I also remember Martin O’Neill as a player and he is softer. As a manager, he has done very well everywhere — like Celtic.

You mentioned Shane Long and the Southampton striker is in the form of his life in terms of goalscoring. Can he cause Sweden some problems? 

Yeah, I think so. He is a bigger threat than Robbie Keane because he is good in the air and he can be a big threat to the centre-backs — especially if Ireland keep possession and put the ball in behind the defence.

Marcus Berg has said Ireland’s weakness is the lack of pace in their defence. Would you go along with that? 

Maybe a little bit. They could have a problem moving around when Zlatan drops deep and makes space for quick players like Berg.

Do you think Sweden will get out of Group E?

They could get out of the group but then they will certainly lose because I think they will probably meet France or Spain.

The goal is to get to the last-16. I’ve been with the Swedish training camp for the last two weeks and every player is thinking very positively.

They will learn a lot from four years ago, when they lost to Ukraine in the first game. So they won’t want to make that same mistake again.

We’ve seen some unsavoury scenes involving opposing fans already at this tournament but are you expecting it to be a party atmosphere with the Irish and Swedish fans tomorrow? 

I really am because the Irish and Swedish fans have met before and there were no problems at all. They will socialise together!

Listen to The42′s Ben Blake on the 98FM Euro 2016 Daily podcast throughout the tournament 

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Ben Blake

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