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Friday 9 December 2016

Ibra sounds warning as Sweden hammer poor Wales

Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action against Wales . Photo: Reuters
Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action against Wales . Photo: Reuters

Sweden sounded an early warning for the Republic of Ireland when they hammered Wales 3-0 in Stockholm yesterday.

The Swedes will provide the opposition for Ireland's opening Euro 2016 pool game in a week's time and the clash has already been earmarked by many as the must-win game for Martin O'Neill's side.

Emil Forsberg and Mikael Lustig scored either side of half-time before substitute John Guidetti put the gloss on a comfortable victory three minutes from time.

Wales were anonymous in attack until Gareth Bale's 64th-minute introduction saw them create some belated pressure.

Seamus McDonagh and Steve Guppy could have reported on plenty of Swedish flaws to their boss from scouting last week's insipid stalemate against Slovenia yet this spying mission provided a real insight into what can be expected in Paris next week.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's influence will account primarily for the disparity in assessments when O'Neill briefs his players on their threat this week.

Wales failed dismally in their attempts to deny the Swedish lynchpin room to drop deep and dictate the tempo.

Glenn Whelan's job specification next Monday could entail acting as a third central centre-back to fill the chasm between Ireland's defence and midfield.

"We can take confidence from this win over Wales but there is still much work to do," said Zlatan afterwards, ominously for Ireland.

"We can play much better at the Euros."

Sweden coach Erik Hamren said he was delighted with his side's first victory in four games.

"It's a good win because Wales are a good team and I think they will do well at Euro 2016," said Hamren.

"Zlatan didn't score today, and that is unusual because he always seems to score.

"But he's important to the team and you saw that in the first goal.

"When we are under pressure and we play the long balls he can keep it."

On the injury front, Norwich City defender Martin Olsson returned to play the first half, while playmaker Albin Ekdal could finally cast aside the jokes about the freak injury he sustained while celebrating with his club Hamburg by coming on for the last half hour.

Still, there was a fresh injury worry for Hamrén. Veteran goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, whose saves kept Slovenia scoreless on Monday, left the fray at the break and admitted feeling soreness in his back afterwards.

"That injury is annoying," said Hamrén. "It's a hip injury which is hopefully not too serious."

SWEDEN: Isaksson (Olsen 46); Lustig, Johansson, Granqvist, Olsson (Augustinsson 46); Larsson, Kallstrom, Lewicki (Ekdal 61), Forsberg; Berg (Guidetti 76) Ibrahimovic (Durmaz 61).

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