Ireland have ‘no special plan’ to deal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Paul McShane fills in at left-back in Ireland training, as Simon Cox occupies left wing berth

Ireland players rest after training in Malahide. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Ireland players rest after training in Malahide. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 16:51

Marco Tardelli has insisted there will be no specific plan to counteract Paris Saint Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Republic of Ireland meet Sweden in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium.

Speaking at Ireland training in Malahide this afternoon, the assistant coach suggested focussing on the threat posed by one man would be “impossible”.

“There’s no special plan,” said the Italian. “He’s a very strong player and it would be like trying to prepare something special for Ronaldo. To focus on the match is to focus on Ibrahimovic.

“To do something special for him is impossible.”

The Italian shed little light as to the Irish line-up for Friday’s game, though a training ground match saw Paul McShane filling in at left-back for the likely starters, a team that also included the fit-again Richard Dunne, and Marc Wilson, having seemingly recovered from his foot injury, playing in the side mainly populated by those more familiar with the bench.

“McShane was left back because in this training we needed somebody there,” was all Tardelli divulged on the matter.

Potential debutant Anthony Pilkington, who has a tendonitis problem, did not take part in the match either, but again, Tardelli insisted this was the plan all along and that the Norwich City winger “hasn’t a problem, he’s just following the programme that the club has set out for him.”

In the absence of the injured Aiden McGeady and with Pilkington out of action and Stoke’s Jonathan Walters on the right side of midfield, Simon Cox was the man to operate on the left wing, but Tardelli warned against reading too much into what is usually a fairly reliable indicator of Giovanni Trapattoni’s plans.

“Cox is a good player,” said Tardelli. “He can play on the left, right or in the middle. If he plays on the left it would mean that we play with four strikers (along with Walters, Shane Long and Robbie Keane). He is good on the left but I don’t know whether he will play there against Sweden.”

An almost definite starter is James McCarthy, whose move to Everton in the final minutes of the transfer window on Monday night seems to already have had positive effect on the midfielder, according to Tardelli.

“It’s better for him, I think it’s better for everyone,” said the Italian. “Now he must show that he is a good player.

“I think even yesterday we saw that something changed in his mood. Before he played for a club where everything was the same every year (a league struggle), but now he can play in a team that wants to win.”

Tardelli added Long is “happy to stay at West Brom” after the two had a chat following the uncertainty that surrounded the striker’s future on transfer deadline day, when he at one stage looked likely to join Hull City.

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