Sweden v Ireland: Stockholm slowly building up to crunch fixture

There has been a low-key prelude to tonight’s action in the Friends Arena.

FOR A TOWN and country that clearly loves it’s football, the build-up to tonight’s match in Stockholm has been a little low-key.

In fact, you wouldn’t really get the sense that there’s a crunch World Cup qualifier on.

Of course, aside from the possibility that the Swedes may not consider us crunch opponents, there are a few other potential explanations.

For one, there’s the spread-out nature of Stockholm with all the little islands. Secondly, there’s that crisp cold. Combine the two, and it’s a bit more difficult for Irish fans to congregate in their usual numbers.

Those numbers, however, have been the subject of some debate. Although there is a decent presence in the city – which included two brave lads walking through the main shopping district in just shorts and t-shirts, to the utter amazement of every Swede they passed – it does seem to be anywhere near as high as past campaigns.

There, obviously, there are the prices. Although the high nature of the Krona – 40 for a small coffee for example – can further confuse things, doing the conversion sums can often cause a few shocks.

The question, then, is whether it’s worth shelling out even more for a campaign and game that doesn’t feel as vibrant as previous ones. Make no mistake, there is a certain apathy and disenchantment among a sizeable portion of the travelling fans.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, would hear none of it. He was full of respect for Giovanni Trapattoni, Robbie Keane and Ireland in general.


The scrum to hear his thoughts, it must be said, was something to behold. And, beyond such respectful sentiments, he clearly isn’t one for media training or platitudes. Zlatan undeniably has an aura and personality few players possess. Indeed, the entire dynamic around him is very similar to the role Roy Keane played for Ireland up to 2002 – right down to the fact the team is almost completely dependent on him.

He dominates everything and is virtually the only face you see on any publicity.

All of which made it more disappointing when, of the four English-language questions asked of him in the press conference, two were wasted on David Beckham at Paris Saint-Germain.

Naturally, it wasn’t an Irish journalist asking them, and the vibe around it wasn’t low-key.

Tonight, of course, Ireland could do with Zlatan’s performance staying along such lines.

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