Republic Of Ireland kickstart their Euro 2016 campaign this evening against Sweden and they will hope that the 2016 edition of the competition fares a lot better than the 2012 one when they came away from Poland without a solitary point from their three group games
Martin O’Neills side got past Bosnia in a Play-Off to secure one of the final 4 places on offer and after a not too impressive warmup the focus now shifts to the competition proper and the first task of keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet
Ibrahimovic himself has been keeping quiet as of late in terms of who is next club will be after the tournament but for the next two weeks at least all transfer talk goes out of the window as he bids to add a major international trophy to his already vast trophy haul
For The Republic Robbie Keane may not be as spritely these days as he once was but when you have your record Goalscorer ready and available then there is always a chance of a goal from somewhere. He won’t have all the attacking load to carry though with Shane Long and Jonathan Walters more likely to be ahead of him in the starting pecking order
In Goal the decision will be whether to go with the evergreen Shay Given or the younger Darren Randolph, neither have had as much game time as O’Neill would have liked last season so I guess it will come down to the classic toss up between age and experience
For Sweden they tested themselves against similar opposition to the Republic in the form of Wales and comfrortably breezed past them 3-0 in their final warm up game that was after a scoreless draw against Slovenia so they come into the tournament in relatively good form
As always the focus will be on Ibrahimovic but if the Irish can keep him quiet then they have every chance of getting something out of this game but ultimately that is the question can the Irish backline keep the Swedish talisman quiet for 90 minutes
With games against Belgium and Italy to follow you get the feeling that Ireland are going to need to get at least a point to give themselves any real chance of qualification to the Round of 16. Unfortunately for them I think Sweden are going to edge it and then give the Boys In Green somewhat of an uphill struggle to qualify.