By Michael Oddie (Sweden) & Joe Proctor (Republic of Ireland)
Sweden (Michael Oddie)
Sweden are no doubt a decent side, and four years ago you would no doubt have picked them to beat Ireland. However, Ireland have had a very promising qualifying stage including the shock defeat of Germany. This should be an interesting encounter as both teams need to win this game if they want to progress through the difficult group E which also contains Italy and Belgium. For this reason, I think the game will be a relatively high scoring game contrary to what we’ve seen in the rest of the tournament so far. Both teams will likely be starting four at the back and 2 at the front which also hints that Over 2.5 goals at 9/5 will be a good bet for this fixture.
Personally I think Sweden have the class to push aside Martin O’Neil’s Ireland squad. It will by no means be easy, the boys in green have proved that they can cause an upset and players like Shane Long are always a threat in any given game.
How will I watch it?
I’ll be watching the game from bed cheering on my bets! I need Zlatan to score and Ireland to peg one back to make a profit
Players to watch
When you think Sweden, you think of one name, Zlatan Ibrahimović. The ex-Paris man will no doubt be key today as Sweden start their tournament versus a well versed Ireland side. The squad is built around him and you can expect him to be both creating and taking chances at goal for the full 90 minutes.
On the other hand, Sweden have some quality players other than the Zlat. Olsson at left back who plays his domestic football at Norwich hasn’t had the best season but is still a quality left back. Isaksson who now plays his football at Turkish Super Lig team Kasimpasa is never going to be easy to beat in goal. Although he’s unlikely to start it’s also hard to look past the complete forward John Guidetti, 12 appearances for Celta Vigo this season scoring 7 goals is not a record to be sniffed at so I expect the ex-Manchester City man to make an impact if he comes on from the bench.
Ireland 1-2 Sweden. Ireland will give Sweden a run for their money but I can’t look past Sweden and Zlatan for this fixture I’m predicting both my bets come in and Ibra’s goal to be the difference… But I would say that.
Republic of Ireland (Joe Proctor)
How will I watch it?
After England’s collapse on Saturday, and my other sweepstake team Ukraine’s subsequent defeat to Germany, the Republic of Ireland are my last hope for a positive result in this round of fixtures.
I would not have had much interest in watching this game, which is among the least inspiring in the first round of fixtures, if it wasn’t for sweepstake. However I’m now fully behind The Boys in Green as my best chance to secure that sweepstake money.
Players to watch
As something who watches a lot of English football I know the Ireland squad fairly well. Robbie Brady is one that stands out, the Norwich man has an eye for goal and delivers a decent cross.
Shane Long is Ireland’s best hope of a goal. The Saints striker is hard working, pacey and perfectly suits the system the Irish want to play. He bagged the crucial late goal to defeat world champions Germany in qualifying and he’ll need to be at his best once again.
However what I’m most looking forward to is Ireland’s slightly crazy manager duo of Martin O’Neil and Roy Keane, both club legends for my team Nottingham Forest. Keane, in particular, has come out with some interesting statements in the build up to the tournament. His reaction to the Ireland’s recent friendly defeat at home to Belarus stands out. Where he said he ‘wanted to kill some of players’ and also said they ‘should be counting their blessing that they’ve managed to get on the flight. The longer Ireland stick around, the more bizarre quotes from Keane we get.
I’m hoping the Irish can emulate their performance against Germany and nick this 1-0, with Shane Long grabbing a route one goal.