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Opposition Analysis: Sweden's Unsung Threat Becomes Clear In Impressive Win Over Wales

Mikey Traynor
By Mikey Traynor
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Just as we shouldn't read too much into Ireland's poor display against Belarus at Turner's Cross last week, nobody should be terrified for our prospects after Sweden's impressive 3-0 win over Wales on Sunday afternoon.

The Welsh started without Gareth Bale and Joe Allen, and looked very poor throughout, while the Swedes were at close to full strength with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line alongside Marcus Berg. The man seemingly on the verge of a move to Old Trafford will, of course, be the one immediately highlighted as the big threat, but the best performer against Wales was not the man with the ponytail.

A popular opinion ahead of Ireland's Group E opener is that if you stop Zlatan, you stop Sweden. It's clear to see why, as with 11 goals in Euro 2016 qualification, and having scored all three of Sweden's goals in their playoff success over Denmark, it would suggest that he has single-handedly hauled his nation to this summer's meeting in France, but Martin O'Neill's men will not be allowed to adopt a similar mindset.

The best player on the pitch as Sweden took on Wales was 24-year-old midfielder Emil Forsberg. Anyone with a keen interest in European football will know that promoted 2.Bundesliga side RB Leipzig are blessed with some extremely talented young players - due in no small part to the financial backing that has seen the controversial club accused of killing German football - and Emil Forsberg is one of them. Someone who has been linked with Roma and Liverpool in recent months, he may not get the chance to play for Leipzig in the Bundesliga should he impress in the shop window that is a major tournament.

Another graduate of the Malmo youth system that produced Zlatan, and many of Sweden's current international side, Forsberg is an extremely talented player who is capable of producing moments of magic to create chances out of thin air.

He tore the Welsh to bits, and Pat Nevin and Danny Gabbidon were singing his praises on Premier Sports.



He likes to carry the ball, and his excellent close control often teases defenders into a challenge only for Forsberg to whip the ball away from them and leave them for dust, and he has an eye for a pass.

He will be the main man tasked with brining Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the game for Sweden, so the Irish midfield must not give him any space to oprate.

Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy have dealt with more established players operating in similar roles before, including during Ireland's road to France, but they will need to be switched on regarding Forsberg throughout.


Elsewhere, Sweden will look to utilise the skill of Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti from the bench, as his technique and pressing when out of possession will look to capitalise on tired defenders, but aside from that it appears that set-pieces and Zlatan will be relied upon to get them goals at Euro 2016.

Defensively, the Swedes are not the most convincing. Their strong, physical defenders tend to invite crosses from wide positions and back themselves to win the battle, but should they do the same with Shane Long and Jon Walters in the box then they may find themselves in trouble.

Still, you get the feeling having had a look at the two nations' preparations for this tournament that this will be a close game, and should either side manage to sneak a win then they will take a huge step towards qualifying for the knockout phase.


SEE ALSO: It Seems Belgium's Biggest Newspaper Is Concerned About The Physicality Of The Irish Team


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