Saturday 18 November 2017

Zlatan Ibrahimovic berating a team mate for a poor pass today is bad news for us

Sweden's forward and captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L) reacts during a training session at their training ground in Saint-Nazaire today
Sweden's forward and captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L) reacts during a training session at their training ground in Saint-Nazaire today

Aidan Fitzmaurice, Versailles

An angry response from Sweden's captain to a mis-placed pass in training session today shows a number of things.

It proves that Zlatan Ibrahimovic feels he is on another level, another world, even, to the rest of the Sweden squad. It also displays a hunger from Sweden's talisman and captain for him to do well in France 2016.

A Champions League medal has eluded Ibrahimovic in his glittering club career and if, as expected, he joins Manchester United before the start of next season, he'll have a long wait as the club have not qualified for the tournament next term.

Winning Euro 2016 would be another bauble for him to add to his collection, this tournament his last chance to win something with the national team, but it's a case of Ibrahimovic winning, not Sweden, as Zlatan comes first in all things related to Swedish football.

Rarely has an Irish team at a major finals face up to a team which is dominated so much by one player. Michael Ballack anchored the German side which took on Ireland in the 2002 World Cup, Iniesta helped engineer Spain's 4-0 destruction of Trapattoni's Ireland in 2012, back in 1994 the Italians had Baggio at his peak.

But Sweden's fate rests very much on the shoulders of Ibrahimovic on Monday. If he is on form and in tune with his team-mates, he has the ability to dismantle Ireland, almost single-handed.

If he's surly and uninterested, Sweden could fall.

He's the only opposing player which Irish players have spoken of. Some of they have played with the likes of Lustig, Larsson and Guidetti, and other players in the Ireland squad would struggle to name half a dozen Swedes.

But they know all about Zlatan as he was name-checked by every player in green who spoke over the last week.

The Swedish media have been keen to find out about our central defensive pairing and how, exactly, Richard Keogh and John O'Shea will manage against Zlatan, It's a big task for a 35-year-old who lost his place in a relegation-threatened Sunderland side and a man who has never played in the top flight in England or in Europe. Better defenders than Keogh and O'Shea have been demolished by Ibrahimovic.

So that's why Sunday could all depend on the form of one man. Even at his advanced age, Ibrahimovic has the ability to win the game all by himself and give Sweden a serious leg-up in their bid to stay in Euro 2016. A lot of pressure on the shoulders of a man who flicks off pressure like a drop of sweat.

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