Stephen Kenny set for biggest test with Ireland U21s in Sweden
Ireland striker Adam Idah admits challenge awaits but ‘we have done our homework’
Ireland U21 player Troy Parrott celebrates scoring a goal against Armenia at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Under-21 Euro 2021 Group One qualifier: Sweden v Republic of Ireland
Kick-off: 5.30pm, Irish time. Venue: Guldfågeln Arena, Kalmar.
Stephen Kenny’s honeymoon period as Ireland Under-21 manager encounters its biggest test this evening when his highly-rated team visit Sweden for their third Euro qualifier.
Back-to-back home wins over Luxembourg (3-0) and Armenia (1-0), allied to the swashbuckling style of a new generation, has created a buzz around this side and a genuine confidence of them creating history.
An Under-21 major finals is the only tournament missing from the FAI’s list of qualifications in the male game and they’ll require a top-two finish in this campaign to try break that duck.
Sweden, second seeds behind Italy, are considered Ireland’s main competition for the runners-up spot, highlighting the significance of this fixture.
The Swedes have calibre at this level. In each of the last seven qualifying campaigns, they’ve clinched either first or second spot, reaching the finals three times over the past decade. Victor Lindelöf was part of their side which lifted the trophy in 2015.
In Ireland’s favour is the fact this is Sweden’s first competitive game with this intake.
Managed by former Sheffield Wednesday defender Roland Nilsson, they have had four friendlies, following up an initial loss to Russia by defeating Scotland, Norway and Finland.
Kenny has optimised the blitz of matches with his crew since March, seven in total including five at the prestigious Toulon Tournament in June.
Only one of those has resulted in defeat and that was against an older Brazil side in France armed with €80 million worth of talent.
“This will be our toughest test of the campaign but we’ve our homework done on Sweden,” says Ireland striker Adam Idah. “It would be nice as a group to create history by reaching the finals but there’s a lot of games to be played yet.”
REP OF IRELAND (probable): C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Celtic), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United), J Knight (Derby County), A Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion); T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur); A Idah (Norwich City)