The Republic of Ireland Start Solidly at Euro 2016

Spread the love

The Republic of Ireland start solidly at Euro 2016 by sharing the spoils with Sweden. The early phases of the match proved to be a pulsating affair as the Irish team boldly took the game to a lacklustre Sweden. The Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a spectator as waves of attacking green jerseys dominated the early exchanges.

The Republic of Ireland Start Solidly at Euro 2016.

Martin O’Neill got his starting XI and tactics absolutely spot on: the Irish coach fielded a diamond formation in midfield which overran the Swedes in the first half. Ireland were unlucky not to score as they had good chances from a right-footed shot by Robbie Brady, a glaring open goal missed by John O’Shea and a thunderbolt that smashed against the crossbar from the impressive Derby County midfielder Jeff Hendrick. Ireland controlled the first-half play and had the lion’s share of the goalscoring opportunities. As the game wore on it looked like Ireland may come to rue their missed chances. Sweden looked mightily happy to hear the half-time whistle and to have a chance to re-organize.

After the half-time interval, Ireland continued where they left off, and some smart wing-back play by Seamus Coleman engineered a half chance which Wes Hoolahan smashed in on the half volley. It was a sumptuous right-footed strike by the predominantly left-footed Hoolahan, as he arrowed it into the corner to give the Swedish goalkeeper no chance. Ireland were one-nil up and great value for their lead.

Suddenly though, the Irish got stage fright. They started to retreat and stand off the Swedes which gave the Scandinavians time on the ball and possession to impress their style of play on the game. The marauding left wing-back Martin Olsson was integral in the Swedish revival as his powerful runs and crosses pinned the Irish back. It was destined perhaps to be the talisman Ibrahimovic who was heavily involved in the Swedish equalizer. He worked a clever touch and go move around the box with John Guidetti before whipping a dangerous left-footed cross into the Irish six yard box. This cross forced Irish defender Ciaran Clark to deal with it, but unfortunately he steered his attempted clearing header into his own net.

Ireland were by now on the back foot, and their senior players such as Glenn Whelan and John O’Shea looked extremely jaded. The Swedes pushed for the killer goal but Ireland held on with a gutsy defensive performance in the last fifteen minutes of the game.

O’Neill and Roy Keane can be pleased with the first 60 or so minutes of the match as their Irish players dominated the game. However, a worrying lack of fitness/energy became apparent as the game wore on. This Irish side has one of the highest average ages in the tournament with players like O’Shea, Hoolahan, and Robbie Keane all in their mid-thirties. Worryingly for Irish fans, an obvious tiredness in many players, in the last third of the Swedish match, may have to be part of the coaching plan for the remaining games. It would not be surprising to see some of the starting players benched because of lower energy levels and the punishing schedule of the upcoming games.

The Republic of Ireland have a point on the board and can look forward to the next game knowing they are in the hunt to qualify into the knockout phases. Irish fans will no doubt be happy to be competitive again and to have all to play for in the upcoming group games.