Euro 2016 Best 10: Rep. of Ireland 1-1 Sweden

Tom Simmonds on the highlights from the opening match in Group E.

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1. Ireland’s organisation was in good order throughout. This is a team where every player knows their job and does it at a tempo matching Martin O’Neill’s pitch side pacing. It’s the minimum requirement at this level but Ireland has it.

2. Ireland showed they have players capable of causing problems. Jeff Hendrick saw one effort well saved in the first half before almost snapping the bar with another, alongside Brady’s near miss.

3. The Irish defence managed to ensure Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a very quiet day, forcing him to often drop deeper to get involved. Restricting him to one difficult chance and applying the pressure on Ciaran Clark to force Sweden’s equaliser was a good day’s work on Zlatan watch.

4. The wide boys carry a threat. Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady got a lot of joy down their respective flanks and will give the Belgians and Italians something to worry about in the next two games.

5. Wes Hoolahan can be Ireland’s pivot. Even before his excellent cushioned finish gave the Boys in Green a deserved lead, Hoolahan looked like the one to provide a little X Factor. His play in between the lines pulled the Swedes out of shape until he was withdrawn.

6. Their midfield will give no quarter. James McCarthy’s first half booking was eclipsed by two bone jarring tackles from Glenn Whelan 15 minutes from the end in midfield, the second of which saw him join McCarthy in the book.

7. Is this an opportunity missed? Ireland could not translate their first half dominance into goals and beating one of Belgium or Italy to progress is a far taller order than beating an average Swedish side.

8. O’Neill does have tricky attacking options on the bench in the form of James McClean and the ageing but wily duo of Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady. He will be looking for one to be his impact sub.

9. Ireland looked to exploit a slow Swedish backline by unleashing midfield runners beyond it after Shane Long and Jon Walters’ donkeywork moved them around. Will this be quite so effective against the Belgian and Italian defences?

10. Whatever happens, the Irish travelling army are a realistic bunch, as their pre-match chant of “we don’t care who wins it!” on the train to the Stade de France shows!

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