Sunday 23 October 2016

Swedes are not too sweet on Irish hopes

Zlatan Ibramhimovic
Zlatan Ibramhimovic

Martin O'Neill has already said that he will look to within his own squad to get an insight into the side which are first up for Ireland in the Euro 2016 finals.

Irish players like Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Brady, James McClean and John O'Shea all get to see some Swedish team-mates up close and personal in training every day as Sweden stars such as Martin Olsson (Norwich), Jonas Olsson (West Brom), Seb Larsson and Ola Toivonen (Sunderland) have had Irish colleagues for years.

But within the Sweden camp, their minds appear to be already made up that it's Belgium and Italy, not the pixie-heads from this country, who will provide the main threat to Sweden's hopes of making it out of the group stages.

"Belgium have been good the last few years," said Zlatan Ibrahimovic when asked to name the best side in Sweden's group.

It's likely that a Champions League regular like Zlatan (pictured) is not that bothered about what his compatriot Jonas Olsson has to say about his West Brom club-mate James McClean as Ibrahimovic can rest his laurels on an astonishing record that's seen him score 62 times in his 111 appearances for the national side.

However, the Paris St Germain star does not include Ireland among his own conquests as he has yet to score in three games against the Republic.

His Sweden team-mates also appear to be largely unimpressed with us. "It's a tough draw but we should beat Ireland," says defender Per Nilsson.


"Against Italy and Belgium, a top performance is required from all of us if we're going to have a chance. We avoided Germany, Spain and France, but Italy doesn't feel like a dream opponent."

Sweden forward Isaac Kiese Thelin knows the host nation for Euro 2016 well as he plays his club football in France, with Bordeaux and he sees this as a "difficult" group.

"We know that Italy are good. Belgium have plenty of individually skilled players and Ireland are also hard to beat. But we have a good chance to go through. We avoided Spain, Germany and France which is what we wanted," said the Bordeaux player.

Sweden have a friendly game pencilled in for next month, against Finland.

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