Thursday 26 April 2018

Defiant Swedes insist they are not a one-man team

David Kelly

David Kelly

Swedish players have defiantly declared that they are not bothered about Ireland's plans for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be shackled by midfielder Paul Green – simply because they have never heard of him.

In any case, aside from being nonplussed at Ireland's cunning plan to deploy what for the Swedes is clearly the most secret of weapons, they have also bullishly dismissed any notion that they are merely a one-man team.

Mikael Antonsson, a substitute in the Zlatan-inspired 4-2 friendly success against England here in November, was blithe in his response to Giovanni Trapattoni's wiles.

"It doesn't matter which player you put on to stop Zlatan, it's going to be a difficult task," said the Bologna defender.

"I think he will have his hands full in the game. I don't know him that well so I shouldn't talk about him too much."

Erm, do you know him at all?

"No. Not at all."

And, you, Behrang Safari?

"I don't know too much about Paul Green, I don't know if that is going to affect our game," the Anderlecht defender said. So, that's a no, then? "No. I'm sorry, I don't know too much."

In fairness, the only Irish player they really do name-check is Robbie Keane, raising presumptions that, as much as Irish fans may perceive that the Swedes have precisely one threat and one threat only, the reverse may also hold true.

The Swedes are swift to deny this, though, referencing neatly the stunning comeback against Germany in Berlin that saw them retrieve a four-goal deficit to eke out a valuable point in injury-time.

Argued

"We showed that we are not a one-man team in that game," argued goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, who made 19 league appearances in two seasons for Manchester City from 2006-08.

"We were knocked out in that first half. We were on our knees and nothing was working for us. Germany were playing really good football. But we were passive and not aggressive enough.

"But in the second half we managed to turn it around somehow. We showed the team spirit was really good. The performance of our players, after being knocked down, we managed to rise up again and fight for it."

Anders Svensson, the former Southampton midfielder with the radar-like passing range, agreed.

"Everyone, especially in the second half, really stepped up and showed that we can pay some excellent football. Everyone worked hard and it was a good result," he said.

"We have only played friendlies since then but we've been doing okay. We're looking forward to this game and hopefully we can have a good performance for 90 minutes, and not just one half. We need to play for the full 90 minutes."

Tobias Hysen, once carpeted by his one-time Sunderland boss Roy Keane after he and Anthony Stokes missed a match-day bus, does appreciate the Zlatan effect.

"And rightly so, he gets the attention he deserves," said Hysen – offspring of former Liverpool favourite Glenn – likely to play off Ibrahimovic up front tomorrow evening.

"We will just have to ensure that the attention is going to be on other players after the game.

"If he has done well and the attention is still on him then we should have gotten a great result."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport