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Today’s the day…how are the nerves?

After all the build-up, Ireland join the Euro 2016 party in Paris this evening as Martin O’Neill’s side open their campaign against Sweden.

Four years on from the disappointment of Poland and Ukraine, the Boys in Green make their return to the European Championships at the Stade de France.

Thousands of Irish fans have descended on the French capital for the Group D opener, with kick-off fast approaching at 5pm.

We’ll have all the build-up right here, with the all important team news coming your way imminently.

The stage is set.

A view of the Stade de France before the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

And the Ireland squad have arrived, with manager Martin O’Neill leading his players out to familiarise themselves with the surroundings.

Martin O'Neill at the stadium Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Martin O'Neill and John O'Shea arrive Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The excitement, both in and around the ground and at home, is building ahead of this eagerly anticipated clash.

Monday 13 June has been circled in the diary of every Irish fan for the last number of months and there’s a real sense of occasion surrounding this one with the green army taking over Paris.

Where are you going to be watching this evening’s game? Have you managed to leave work early or have you made a beeline for the pub?

After all the speculation and second-guessing, Martin O’Neill is currently handing his team-sheet to Uefa officials deep in the bowels of the Stade de France.

Will Jon Walters make it? Who will partner John O’Shea in defence? The Ireland manager has been known to spring a surprise or two in the past.

Meanwhile, Spain have just beaten Czech Republic in Toulouse thanks to Gerard Pique’s late, late header. The defending champions are up and running, albeit very unconvincingly.

Don’t know about you, but we really like the look of that Ireland XI. There are no huge surprises with Jon Walters winning his fitness battle and Ciaran Clark preferred to Keogh and Duffy in defence.

An attacking quartet of Walters, Hendrick, Hoolahan and Long certainly contains plenty of guile, industry and pace while McCarthy and Whelan will sit in the middle.

In addition, O’Neill has options on the bench with McClean, McGeady, Keane and Murphy all waiting in reserve.

Does that XI make you optimistic? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail ryan@the42.ie, tweet @the42_ie, post a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

And this is how the opposition will line-up. All eyes on one man.

Sweden: Isaksson, Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Olsson; Larsson, Kallstrom, Lewicki, Forsberg; Ibrahimovic, Berg.

Ryan Bailey here with live updates while Niall Kelly and Ben Blake are in position at the Stade de France.

Here’s Niall Kelly, with his first update of the evening.

It’s finally here and, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Ireland are ready to open their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden.

The Irish fans have turned Paris green for the last few days, but inside the Stade de France — as Chris Martin once sang — it’s all yellow at the moment. A massive roar as Zlatan Ibrahimovic led his team out onto the pitch for the pre-match warm ups.

No major surprises in Martin O’Neill’s team. Jon Walters is fit to start, and the Wes Hoolahan fan club will be delighted to see him start in behind Shane Long.

The atmosphere is building at the Stade de France, with kick-off a little over half an hour away. To get a taste of what’s happening, go to our Snapchat (The42.ie) where we’ll have updates throughout the evening.

 

Screenshot_20160613-162127

Speaking to RTÉ, Martin O’Neill says Ireland ‘can’t afford’ to man-mark Zlatan:

“I don’t think we can afford to do that. Of course he’s going to cause us problems because he’s a very good player but he’s not the only player and we have to be aware of that.”

Martin O'Neill speaks with Shane Duffy Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Right, it’s prediction time. Heart over head or head over heart?


Poll Results:





The first rendition of the Fields of Athenry rings around the Stade de France. Spine-tingling stuff, and we haven’t even kicked off yet.

Ireland supporters inside the stadium Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ireland may be ranked two places higher than today’s opposition, but let’s not lose sight of the size of the task facing O’Neill’s men.

Erik Hamren’s side are made clear favourites by the bookmakers — and they have this man in their ranks.

Not long until kick-off but to whet your appetite further (as if you need it), here are some of our pre-match offerings:

If you’re just joining us, welcome along and get yourself into position on that couch.

The big news is that Jon Walters has fully shaken off a nagging Achilles problem in time to start while in central defence, Ciaran Clark lines up alongside captain John O’Shea.

Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic is hoping to become the first player to score in four separate European Championships.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Source: Chris Radburn

He plays at the same venue where he made his last appearance for now former club Paris Saint-Germain in their French Cup final win against Marseille just over three weeks ago.

Ibrahimovic is partnered in attack by Marcus Berg of Panathinaikos, while Victor Lindeloef of Benfica starts in defence.

Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea (capt), Ciaran Clark, Robbie Brady; James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick; Wes Hoolahan; Jon Walters, Shane Long

Sweden: Andreas Isaksson; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindeloef, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson; Sebastian Larsson, Oscar Lewicki, Kim Kallstrom, Emil Forsberg; Marcus Berg, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (capt)

Referee: Milorad Mazic (SRB)

The atmosphere is absolutely electric. The players are lining up in the tunnel and we’re very nearly set.

How are the nerves?

Here we go, here we go, here we go.

The Stade de France rises to greet the two sets of players as all the excitement, the nine months of build-up, the four years of hurt, amounts to this.

It’s time for Amhrán na bhFiann.

Goosebumps. It’s go time, John O’Shea wins the toss and Ireland will defend the end where the green army are housed.

Final huddle and Sweden will kick-off as the roof comes off the Stade de France.

1Mins

Clark clatters into Marcus Berg but the referee waves play on, despite loud protestations from the Swedish end. Ireland in possession for the first time, and Robbie Brady wins a free-kick on the far side.

2Mins

Brady – who may have gone down a little easily – picks himself up to take the set-piece. Sweden clear the initial cross and Whelan’s ball back in towards Walters is over-hit.

3Mins

Early indication is that O’Neill has gone for two – Long and Walters – up top with Hoolahan and Hendrick playing in behind. Quite an attacking set-up from Ireland.

4Mins

Ibrahimovic’s first involvement sees him collect the ball on the left. O’Shea comes out to double up but the striker gets his cross away, which is dealt with by Clark.

7Mins

Martin Olsson, a familiar face to Premier League fans, swings in a cross from the left. Ibrahimovic looks to have the jump on his man but Ireland do just enough to avert the danger and win the throw-in on that far side.

Long then does well to hold the ball up under pressure from Lindeloef but his lay-off doesn’t find a green shirt. As you would expect, it has been a frenetic start to proceedings in Paris.

7Mins

Olsson has offered an attacking outlet down this left hand side during the opening exchanges and again he makes good ground, only for his cross to be too close to Randolph.

9Mins

Hoolahan shows his willingness to run in behind as he chases the ball down the channel, forcing Lindeloef to put it out.

From the throw-in, Walters knocks it down for Hendrick. He strikes it sweetly but Isaksson gets across to parry behind. The corner comes to nothing.

10Mins

That was the game’s first shot in anger. It sat up beautifully for Hendrick to strike but his crisp drive was just too close to the goalkeeper.

11Mins

Randolph called into action for the first time. Coleman misjudges the flight of Lustig’s diagonal ball, allowing Berg to control but his touch is heavy and the Ireland ‘keeper is quickly off his line. Phew!

13Mins

No real pattern to the opening 12 minutes. Both sides trying to settle into the contest, which has resulted in a pretty disjointed start to proceedings.

Ireland have, however, started brightly going forward with Hoolahan and Walters already linking well.

15Mins

Brady wins the corner and O’Shea and Clark make their way up. The delivery isn’t the best and Ibrahimovic is there at the front post to bring the ball clear.

From the next passage of play, Walters gets his body in the way to win a free kick from Kallstrom.

15Mins

The referee has let a lot go but he gives Ireland the free on that occasion. Brady clips it in, towards Long, but the Swedish defence is a big unit and they deal with it again.

17Mins

CHANCE! Brady with the out-swinger, Clark rises highest to flick it on for O’Shea at the back post. The captain has to score but he doesn’t connect and the chance is gone. Oh, that was a sitter.

18Mins

Oh what a chance that was. O’Shea fluffs his lines, as O’Neill shows his despair on the sideline. It has been a really positive start from the Boys in Green and they’re now seeing most of the ball.

19Mins

James McCarthy battles for possession with Marcus Berg.

Marcus Berg and James McCarthy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

20Mins

This is dangerous. Clark and Whelan commit the foul on Berg and Zlatan puts the ball down. It’s surely too far out for him and so it proves as his effort is poor, striking the Ireland wall.

22Mins

Possession is changing hands regularly with both sides guilty of spurning it cheaply. Sweden just growing into the game again after that brief period of Ireland possession.

23Mins

Good handling from Randolph as he comes off his line to take charge and pluck a dangerous looking cross out of the air. 23 minutes gone in Paris and we’re still goalless.

25Mins

Ireland being forced to do a lot of work off the ball here, as Sweden stroke the ball around the vast Stade de France playing surface. The Irish fans raise the decibel levels again as Clark clears the danger, for now.

28Mins

Ireland need to get on the ball again here as Sweden begin to dictate the tempo. O’Neill, as he always does, is prowling the touchline.

29Mins

SO CLOSE! Much better from Ireland. Brady cuts in field onto his right foot before unleashing a fierce drive, which clips the top of the net with Isaksson stretched. We’re talking inches.

32Mins

OFF THE BAR! Hendrick tries his luck from range this time and with Isaksson beaten, his curling effort comes back off the crossbar.

33Mins

Lovely one-two with Long to create that chance as Hendrick’s shot crashes off the bar.

Martin O'Neill and Robbie Keane react to a missed chance Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

34Mins

Ireland are very unlucky not to be in front. They’ve gone close on a number of occasions in the opening 34 minutes and so far look comfortable defensively.

37Mins

Ireland are attacking down both flanks with Brady and Coleman venturing forward at every opportunity. While we are on top at the moment, the threat of a counter-attack is very real and O’Neill will be warning his players not to expose themselves as we enter the final 10 minutes of the half.

39Mins

First sight of goal for Ibrahimovic. Ireland don’t really deal with the corner and Sweden keep it alive. It eventually falls for the striker, who is unable to turn it towards goal under pressure from O’Shea.

40Mins

Ibrahimovic is then required at the other end as Long wins the corner when it appeared to be a lost cause. The Swedish captain gets the clearing header at the front post.

41Mins

CLOSE! Brady’s left foot is an absolute wand as he delivers another sublime cross. Long has the run on his man but can’t get on the end of it with the goal at his mercy.

44Mins

Poor, poor touch from McCarthy and he’s forced to commit the foul as Forsberg looks to break. First yellow of the game goes to the Everton midfielder.

It has been a really good showing in this half from Ireland, who have created a couple of glorious chances.

45Mins

Concerns here for Mikael Lustig as he goes down in the middle of the field. The defender is back up on his feet but he can’t continue and makes his way off a little gingerly. Erik Johansson is on the Swedes are forced into a defensive reshuffle.

51Mins

It’s scoreless at the break and while Martin O’Neill will be really pleased with his team’s first-half performance, he will know they should be ahead.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Source: Brian Lawless

Ibrahimovic is operating quite deep so it has been comfortable for O’Shea and Clark thus far while going forward Ireland have certainly asked questions of the Swedish defence.

O’Shea had the best chance, completely fluffing his lines at the back post after Clark had flicked on Brady’s corner. Hendrick has had two sights of goal, forcing Isaksson into action on the first occasion and then striking the bar on the second.

Hoolahan, Long and Brady have all been bright, although Walters looks a little off the pace having returned from injury for this game.

Eamon Dunphy says Ireland have been ‘outstanding’ and it’s hard to disagree.

45Mins

Here’s Niall Kelly from the Stade de France:

A solid opening 45 from Ireland who have been the better side everywhere but on the scoreboard — John O’Shea and Jeff Hendrick in particular must be wondering how they didn’t manage to break the deadlock.

Ireland have looked far more threatening in possession and while there’s a sharp intake of breath any time Zlatan touches the ball, Ciaran Clark has policed him well.

45Mins

Here is that Hendrick chance, which was created by a lovely one-two with Long.

https://vine.co/v/iLp73wUwVAJ

45Mins

Players back out for the second half. We’ve just about got our breath back and regained our composure after the opening period. No changes for either side.

46Mins

Hendrick with another long-range effort as he wins the ball in a dangerous position. The Derby midfielder forces Isaksson to get down low to his right and in the end makes a comfortable stop.

+

49Mins

Superb work from Coleman down the right. His cross falls beautifully for Hoolahan, who sweeps the ball into the corner with his weaker right foot. No more than Ireland deserve.

49Mins

SAVE! Sweden come within inches of restoring parity. Brilliant stop from Randolph as he parries Clark’s wayward clearance with a strong hand – and somehow the follow up is blasted wide.

50Mins

Ireland living dangerously. All of a sudden, Sweden have come alive. Another set-piece causes trouble and O’Shea is forced to head behind. Ireland under a lot of pressure here.

53Mins

Ireland survive and Hoolahan brings it clear before winning a free-kick deep into opposition territory. And breathe…

54Mins

Ireland weather that particular storm and they just need to settle things down here. It has been frenetic since Hoolahan’s opener with Sweden looking for an instant reply.

55Mins

Dangerous! Ibrahimovic finds the ball at his feet in the box but two Irish defenders get out to him quickly and snuff out the danger.

57Mins

Sweden are making their second change as former Man City forward John Guidetti is introduced for Marcus Berg.

The Fields is ringing around the Stade de France. What an occasion.

59Mins

Oh my word! Ibrahimovic gets there ahead of Clark and turns the cross goalwards, only for it to go the right side of the post from an Irish point of view. That was close!

61Mins

Lindeloef goes into the book after he catches Walters with a flailing arm. James McClean, meanwhile, is preparing to come on.

62Mins

Walters is flagged offside and Ireland can now make that change with the Stoke forward the man to make way for McClean. A huge ovation for Walters as he trudges off after another excellent shift.

65Mins

Olsson is so dangerous down the left. He’s bombing forward at will and has acres of space to find his cross. His latest very nearly picks out Ibrahimovic but Clark flicks it away with the striker ready to pounce. He was, however, offside.

67Mins

McClean is full of energy but he overruns the ball after some good initial work. Just 23 minutes remaining in Paris, Ireland leading through Wes Hoolahan’s stunning strike.

71Mins

Disaster! Ireland had just gone into their shell and Ibrahimovic conjures the chance, forcing Clark to head into his own net.

72Mins

SAVE! Out of nothing, Hendrick finds himself in behind but the ball just wouldn’t come down for him and his effort is saved by the ‘keeper.

74Mins

Since Hoolahan’s goal, Ireland offered little in the way of an attacking threat and they were playing a dangerous game with so long left and a player of Zlatan’s ability at the other end.

And so it transpired. Ibrahimovic muscled his way to the byline, brushing O’Shea aside, and his cross was too hot for Clark to handle.

75Mins

Ireland have responded well, however. Much, much better from the Boys in Green as they wrestle back the ascendancy. Brady swings over a corner and Ireland keep the pressure on before Clark gives away the free-kick for pushing at the back stick.

76Mins

Robbie Keane is about to enter the fray as things just begin to boil over. A couple of feisty challenges results in Whelan being booked. A frantic 15 minutes to come in Paris.

78Mins

Hoolahan is replaced! That’s a strange call from O’Neill as the Norwich playmaker has been superb and looks most likely. Keane is on.

79Mins

10 minutes remaining. How are those fingernails?

81Mins

Ireland looking vulnerable down the right flank. Coleman is being offered no prediction with Olsson causing huge problems. Have to be careful not to lose this.

81Mins

Too close for comfort! Olsson again with a dangerous ball across the six yard box, with Clark and O’Shea facing their own goal. On this occasion, it misses everyone and we breathe a huge sigh of relief.

83Mins

Final change for Ireland being prepared as O’Neill looks to bring on a fresh pair of legs. Aiden McGeady is ready to come on.

83Mins

Whelan commits the foul on halfway and here’s the change with McCarthy making way for McGeady.

85Mins

Sweden’s turn to make a change as Lewicki makes way for Albin Ekdal.

87Mins

All the life has been sucked out of Ireland since Hoolahan went off. Sweden look more likely at the minute.

88Mins

This is not good for the heart. Into the final minute of regulation time as Randolph comes off his line to punch clear.

89Mins

Three minutes of added time. Christ, me nerves. Ireland searching for a winner.

91Mins

Brady relieves the pressure by winning a free-kick. Last chance saloon now.

90Mins

McGeady is down and Ireland put the ball out of play for him to receive attention. He’s back up and play continues. 60 seconds left.

90Mins

One last chance, Ireland pushing but Sweden stand firm.

90Mins

So Martin O’Neill’s men begin their campaign with a point but the overriding feeling at full time is disappointment. Ireland were superb in the first-half and went into a deserved lead after the break but they went into their shell thereafter.

You can’t help but feel that it’s two points dropped at the Stade de France, although many would have taken a draw before kick-off.

Plenty of positives to take as we move on to Bordeaux for Saturday’s clash with Belgium. We’ll have all the reaction from Paris to come on The42 throughout the evening.

Remember, you can follow the other Group E game, between Italy and Belgium, live here.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Source: John Walton

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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