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Ireland v Sweden

Trap channels spirit of Stockholm as Ireland bid to keep World Cup dream alive

Ireland welcome Sweden to Dublin tonight for a game that will shape both countries’ chances of World Cup qualification.

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI’S PRE-match instructions were simple: more of the same.

Ireland go into tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden knowing that if they cannot win, they must not lose. With Austria taking on Group C leaders Germany in Munich, the finely-balanced race for second place will become considerably clearer by the close of play.

And so Trapattoni steered clear of daring predictions in his press conference and instead focused on the spirit of Stockholm and the scoreless draw between the sides last March.

That was a game which Ireland went into fearing the worst but, in hindsight, looked back on as only a point gained when it really might have been three.

They found a Swedish team nothing like the one which mounted a remarkable comeback from 4-0 down to draw against Germany, nor like the one which swashbuckled their way past England a month later.

Ireland’s attempts to disrupt them and stifle Zlatan Ibrahimovic worked while James McCarthy put in a man-of-the-match performance directing the forward traffic.

Something similar is required again.

“I have watched the game against Sweden and I am convinced that we had good chances to score and to win the game,” Trapattoni said.

“In Stockholm, we played very well. Now we need to repeat the same performance with full commitment.”

Perhaps that explains why Trapattoni has stuck with James McClean on the wing rather than draft in Robbie Brady, Simon Cox or hand a debut to Anthony Pilkington.

McClean was bright in Stockholm and one of Ireland’s better performers as he tried to exploit a weakness down Sweden’s left side. He adds adds much-needed physicality in midfield as well, Trap said, as he explained why it is the Wigan winger who starts opposite Jon Walters.

“At first I thought we would play with four strikers [Cox and Walters] but the second time, I thought three strikers was enough. During the game, changing to the other option could be very important. During the game I can choose to have other tactical opportunities. That is the reason.

“In Sweden, yes, he played well. He is also physically strong and this will be a physical, but also technical, game against Sweden. They are strong physically.”

Ireland’s main injury concern this week, Marc Wilson (ankle), is fit to take his place at left-back while David Forde starts in goal after he came through training in Malahide without any recurrence of his knee injury.

And there is a massive psychological boost with the news that Richard Dunne is fit and ready to take his place alongside John O’Shea at the heart of the Irish defence, winning his 78th cap on what will be his first competitive international appearance since Euro 2012.


Ibrahimovic: all smiles in the Aviva Stadium yesterday (INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan)

If there are any doubts about Dunne’s readiness or his ability to stay the course, Trapattoni allayed them yesterday saying “for me Richard is the same as before the injury,” words intended to evoke memories of Moscow in 2011.

A performance of that magnitude might be necessary to keep Sweden’s star man Ibrahimovic in check. The Paris Saint-Germain striker has scored four goals already this campaign but Ireland succeeded in limiting his influence in Stockholm and now need to do so again.

“Players like Ibra, like Messi, like Robbie, they have a feel for goal,” Trap explained, comparing the challenge to the one he faced as a player when marking Pele.

“Ibra is Ibra. He can score, he can play where he wants: play back, play striker. It will be important for us not to control only him because there are other players. There is [Sebastian] Larsson, there is the Sweden team.

“For us it will be very, very important to repeat the game we played in Sweden because we had two or three great chances and we could have won. It will be important to repeat this game.”

Ireland: David Forde; Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson; Jon Walters, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, James McClean; Shane Long, Robbie Keane (c).
Sweden: TBA

Sebastian Larsson warns Sweden team-mates to watch McClean

‘A different kind of match’: Sweden arrive expecting Ireland to open up and play

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