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Return to scene of Thierry Henry handball and more Ireland-Sweden talking points

The Boys in Green are hoping to banish bad memories from when they last played at Stade de France.

France's Thierry Henry, left, passes the ball as Ireland's goalkeeper Shay Given, right, tries to stop it, just before William Gallas (unseen) scored the goal for France during their World Cup qualifying playoff second legmatch at the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis outside Paris in November 2009.
France's Thierry Henry, left, passes the ball as Ireland's goalkeeper Shay Given, right, tries to stop it, just before William Gallas (unseen) scored the goal for France during their World Cup qualifying playoff second legmatch at the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis outside Paris in November 2009.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Ireland hope for better luck on return to Stade de France

THE EURO 2016 match with Sweden on Monday evening offers the Republic of Ireland the chance to exorcise the ghost of one of the most notorious incidents in international football.

Thierry Henry’s handball in extra time set up William Gallas for the decisive goal when France played Ireland in a World Cup qualifying play-off in November 2009. It sparked an international outcry.

Of the Ireland team that started that night, goalkeeper Shay Given, John O’Shea, Glenn Whelan and striker Robbie Keane all survived to make Martin O’Neill’s squad for this European Championship. Aiden McGeady, who came off the bench, is also in France.

“Hopefully,” said Given, now 40, when asked this week if his team were finally due a break at the Stade de France. “But it’s not about looking back, it’s about Sweden on Monday night and what happened is gone now.

“It’s a fantastic stadium, with an amazing atmosphere when we did play there.”

2. Will Ireland attack the Swedes?

Republic of Ireland v Belarus - International Friendly - Turners Cross Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

There are two ways of looking at today’s game from Ireland’s perspective.

On paper, Sweden are the easiest of their three opponents. Consequently, the temptation is to go all out for the win and then shut up shop and play for a point in the next two games.

Alternatively, there may also be a feeling that while it’s important to win, it’s essential that Ireland don’t lose.

Opening group matches at major tournaments are often extremely cautious affairs, with neither side wanting to give much away.

In qualifying, both teams generally relied on a strong backline more so than a prolific attack (notwithstanding the presence of Ibrahimovic in the Sweden side).

That said, Ireland will almost certainly need to win at least one of their group games in order to progress to the knockout stages. Sweden seem far more likely to be toppled than Belgium or Italy.

Therefore, a relatively attacking line-up is expected this evening, with Wes Hoolahan, Shane Long and Jon Walters among those likely to feature.

3. Who should Ireland worry about aside from Zlatan?

Sweden v Wales - International Friendly - Friends Arena Source: Joe Giddens

Ibrahimovic may have scored 11 of Sweden’s 19 goals in qualifying, but he is not the only decent player in the team.

For instance, 24-year-old RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg caught the eye in their impressive recent 3-0 friendly win over Wales.

Forsberg likes to make darting runs into the box from midfield, and isn’t a bad finisher either, as he also showed in his country’s qualifying play-off victory against Denmark.

Meanwhile, striker John Guidetti (also aged 24) is someone Celtic fans will remember well from his relatively successful loan spell at the club, and he is coming off a decent season with Spanish side Celta Vigo in which he managed 13 goals in all competitions.

And finally, at the back, 21-year-old Benfica defender Victor Lindelof has enjoyed a breakthrough season at club level, playing both legs of his side’s Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich among other notable recent achievements.

The youngster was part of the Sweden U21 team that won the Euros in 2015, and is consider one of the brightest prospects to emerge from the Scandinavian country in a long time.

Despite having earned just three caps at senior level so far, Lindelof – who can play in the centre or at full-back — may well feature from the start this evening.

4. Will we see any surprises in Martin O’Neill’s starting XI?

Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Media Activity - June 11th Source: Chris Radburn

Unlike his predecessor in the job Giovanni Trapattoni, Martin O’Neill can never be accused of predictability when it comes to naming his starting XI.

O’Neill frequently had at least one surprise name in his starting XI over the course of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, and this evening is likely to be no exception.

One of the hardest positions to call are the two centre-back slots. In both the Bosnia games, Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark featured as part of the backline, though largely because John O’Shea wasn’t 100% fit at the time.

Meanwhile, assistant boss Roy Keane on Saturday hinted that Blackburn’s Shane Duffy could be in line to make a surprise competitive debut.

Duffy started in what looked like the first team in a recent training match, as did Aiden McGeady, though Jon Walters’ improving fitness means the Everton winger’s chances of starting have now lessened.

Another important question is what formation Ireland will play — 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 diamond were among those attempted during the qualifying campaign.

Assuming everyone is fit, expect to see Hoolahan in behind Long, with the usual midfield trio of James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick sticking close together, and Walters playing out wide but with licence to join with the attack at opportune moments.

Additional reporting by AFP

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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