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Dublin: 13°C Thursday 13 May 2021
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Reasons to be positive ahead of Ireland v Sweden tonight

The return of Richard Dunne and other factors that may benefit Ireland this evening.

Richard Dunne has had a good start to life at his new club, QPR.
Richard Dunne has had a good start to life at his new club, QPR.

MATCHDAY IS FINALLY here and a massive crowd is expected at the Aviva Stadium to roar on the Boys in Green in their must-win World Cup Group C qualifier against the Swedes.

I anticipated positive vibes from the manager and squad but have been pleasantly taken aback at the (albeit cautious) feel-good factor emanating from Irish fans on supporters forums and websites in the build-up to this evening’s crunch encounter.

Ireland rarely set the pulses racing with their ultra-defensive coach preaching his ‘let’s not lose this game’ mantra culminating in multiple draws, full backs forbidden from crossing the halfway line and an inability to hold on to a lead.

And yet there is a growing conviction that victory is certainly attainable if the Republic casts off the defensive shackles and take the game to the Swedes.

The last thing Irish supporters want is another glorious draw, especially with a tricky away assignment in Austria looming on the horizon next Tuesday.

Yet there are reasons to be positive about this Swedish clash, none more so than the welcome return of Richard Dunne to the Irish defence. The O’Shea and Dunne partnership has the onerous task of keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet but if ever the experienced duo needed to produce the goods in an Irish jersey, it is tonight.

O’Shea has been handed the captain’s armband at Sunderland whilst Dunne has been given a new lease of life at QPR with regular first team football aiding his recovery from a persistent injury. The fact that Trapattoni also has his first-choice full backs in Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson available is a huge plus as both players excelled against the Swedes in the previous group encounter.

Another reason to be positive is the fact our other Group C qualification rivals Austria are likely to lose to Germany later this evening meaning a win over Sweden would put Giovanni Trapattoni’s ahead in the race for second place and increase the pressure on the Austrians heading into Tuesday night.

Four points from the two upcoming qualifiers gives Ireland every chance of grabbing second place in the tightest of groups, but it is certainly attainable if the boys in green play to their strengths and without inhibition.

The selection of McClean and Long to play just behind Robbie Keane also suggests a positive approach as launching long balls at a Swedish defence with an average height of six foot would be pure folly. Ireland showed in the 0-0 draw in Stockholm earlier in the campaign that a short, sharp, passing game in and around the final third would cause the Swedes back four no end of problems.

Keane is in a rich vein of scoring form as well which is good news for Trapattoni while Shane Long will be desperate to put a frustrating transfer window behind him and get that elusive 10th international goal for his country.

Ireland’s detractors and critics will no doubt point out the fact that we have been here before with Trap (and previous Irish managers) in failing to get the job done whilst appearing on the cusp of taking a major scalp. Ireland has not defeated a higher-ranked country in a competitive qualifier under the Italian, therefore victory in tonight’s game would represent a watershed for this particular group of players.

Yet you can sense the importance of the occasion in the players’ pre-match comments — they are under no illusions that failure to take 3 points on home soil against the Swedes would necessitate an away win in Vienna and make qualification for next summer’s party Rio highly unlikely.

Let’s hope Trapattoni and his players focus on taking the game to rather than trying to contain Sweden, as the previous encounter showed that Ireland are certainly capable of defeating their group rivals.

Prediction: Rep of Ireland 2 (Long and Keane) Sweden 1 (Ibrahimovic)

Follow Ger on Twitter: @germccarthy74

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