Ireland: Randolph, Coleman, Clark, O’Shea, Brady, Whelan, McCarthy, Hendrick, Walters, Hoolahan, Long.
Sweden: Isaksson, Lustig, Granqvist, Olsson, Forsberg, Larsson, Källström, Lindelöf, Lewicki, Berg, Ibrahimović
Sweden and Republic of Ireland. The two underdogs of their respective group went head-to-head this afternoon in the first match of group E, the ‘group of death’ as it is being called.
During the early stages of the game it seemed as though both teams were filled with nerves. Passes were misplaced time after time, there were fouls and the occasional offside, it wasn’t pretty football to say the least. The first real dangerous moment came from the big man himself, Zlatan Ibrahimović, with a free-kick 30 meters out from goal but unfortunately for the Swedes it came to nothing as he smashed it straight into the wall.
Ireland’s first real chance to score came from a Robbie Brady corner; the unpredictable winger played in a brilliant ball which was then flicked into the six-yard box where John O’Shea needed only the slightest of touches to put the Irish faithful into the lead but it was agonisingly out of his reach.
Ireland again came awfully close just after the half an hour mark as Jeff Hendrick of Derby Country struck a wonderful looping effort over the Swedish defence and goalkeeper, only for it to strike the top of the bar and deflect over!
Not even two minutes into the second half and Ireland again came close again when Jeff Hendrick collected the ball on the edge of the box and took a strike at the Swedish goalkeeper, only for it to be saved well. Ireland then carried on their positive start to the second half with the first goal of the game coming from who other than Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City. The ball was chipped into box where Hoolahan stood, he ran onto the loose ball and hit a first-time curling effort into the bottom corner to give the Irish a well-deserved lead!
That goal certainly lightened things up as both teams bombarded each other with attack after attack, fouls began to fly in left right and centre. Ibrahimović soon sent a good chance just wide, the ball was whipped into the box and he collected it on the penalty spot, before scuffing scuff it wide after falling backwards and swinging at it under the pressure.
Ireland ‘keeper Darren Randolph also played a crucial role to help keep Ireland in the lead, only a few moments after Hoolahan helped give his side the lead, Sweden went up the other end and showed much more attacking promise. This was clearly shown by a thunderous strike at goal that the West Ham goalkeeper pulled off fantastic save to keep out and keep the score at 1-0. This attacking didn’t stop either, as moments later the ball was curled into the box to the big man Ibrahimović but unfortunately he headed wide.
As the game played out its course, Ibrahimović collected the ball on the left-hand side of the pitch and glided the ball towards Sebastian Larsson, only for Ciaran Clark to intercept it but unfortunately that interception resulted in him heading the ball past his own keeper and scoring an own goal in the 71st minute and levelling the score in what was very fast paced and entertaining game!
That goal seemed to dampen Ireland’s spirits and lift Sweden as the Swedes dominated the game from then on putting lots of pressure on the Ireland defence. The most dangerous chance came when Marcus Olsson collected the ball on the far side and played a driven pass into the six yard box where two of his team mates waited but neither managed to connect.
Despite the bombardment of attacks and pressure, Sweden could not find a way past the Irish defence for the second time but it certainly was not something to be down about as a 1-1 result was definitely a fair result I would say.
MOTM: Man of the match was Wes Hoolahan and well deserved. He caused the Swedish so much trouble all game with his trickery and movement and he also scored a cracker of a goal!
Flop of the Match: Flop of the match was without a doubt Ibrahimović. The big man himself was given a big build-up and was expected to cause some damage to Ireland today and have a successful tournament but today he was completely isolated and his finishing was not what we know of him.