Let’s play like the home team and surprise these beatable Swedes
Most important is the cover in front of our centre backs, where visitors can cause most damage
Giovanni Trapattoni went to see Richard Dunne play for QPR last week and clearly saw enough to bring back his most important player of these past five years. Photograph: Inpho
Let’s be clear from the off. This Swedish team are nothing to be worried about. Like ourselves, they beat the Faroes twice and Kazakhstan but each victory was a struggle.
They only escaped Torshavn with a 2-1 result.
Point being, they are beatable.
I know, I know, so are we but there was little evidence in the nil-nil draw in Solna last March to indicate they are a superior force.
This was reinforced by their defeat to Austria in June.
Sweden’s record of reaching and performing at major tournaments is impressive but that need not matter tonight.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains the primary concern. The big Paris St Germain striker should be joined up front by Johan Elmander, currently on loan to Norwich City, as he provides a better option than Tobias Hysen, who failed to trouble John O’Shea or Ciarán Clark.
But Ireland have also changed for the better.
I’m enthused by Richard Dunne’s return alongside O’Shea. It’s a partnership that hasn’t been together for three years but don’t expect any communication problems. Their experience fills me with confidence.
Giovanni Trapattoni, our manager, went to see Dunne play for QPR last week and clearly saw enough to bring back his most important player of these past five years.
Dunne’s ability to turn and his pace after such a sustained period of injury, and him being 33 years old, don’t seem to be issues for the Italian.
I hope he is right.
What’s more important is the cover employed just in front of Ireland’s centre backs, because that’s where Sweden will seek to exploit space to shoot and create chances.
It’s the usual problem we face against major football nations, protecting our rigid system when players of technical quality attempt to play between our lines.
Dunne and O’Shea will appreciate the help of Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy. In the drawn game our fullbacks, Séamus Coleman and Marc Wilson, had the Swedish wingers in their pockets, while the set-piece deliveries of Sebastian Larsson were defended without any major strife.
In the meantime, Wilson has settled into a central role for Stoke City. He has usurped Whelan, providing a more creative passing element to go with Mark Hughes’ more progressive vision for the club.
From an Irish perspective, it is an interesting development. A steady presence in Trap teams these past five years, Whelan’s absence against Sweden gave us a better looking shape.
Paul Green and McCarthy, well supported by James McClean and Jon Walters, gave us a more dynamic looking midfield.
McCarthy was outstanding, as he has been for some time now, and is thoroughly deserving of his move to Everton, running the game against Sweden and England at Wembley, as we hope he will do again tonight.