Free scoring Swedes will ask serious questions of Irish pragmatism
Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic team head to Scandinavia in what is undoubtedly one of the key staging points on their road to the World Cup in 2014 with their adherence to the Italian’s dour philosophy reaffirmed after February’s friendly matches against Greece and Poland.
The Irish have been in the midst of something of an identity crisis in the first three games of the qualifying campaign, shipping six goals against Germany and allowing footballing sticklebacks the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan to ripple their nets to boot.
All of three of those matches served up more than 2.5 goals, but the Republic’s February fresheners moved south of the 2.5 total goals margin once more and their 2-0 win against Poland last time out saw them back at the pragmatic, hard to beat heights of their pre-Euro 2012 form under Trapattoni.
All their resolve will be necessary in a match in which the key objective is not to lose ground on their foes in the battle for second spot behind the largely rampant Germans.
Their hosts had been extremely average in their first four matches in 2012/13, before their superb comeback from 4-0 in Germany galvanised their squad and set them on a scoring streak of nine goals in their next three matches.
Their clash with the Germans was the only qualifying game in which the Swedes have failed to extract maximum points so far this term and the Irish pose nothing like the same attacking threat as Yogi Low’s outfit.
Weathering the storm until half time will only be a relative comfort for the visitors given the Yellow and Blue have a habit of bursting into life after the break lately. They’ve won the second halves of their last seven outings and don’t give up until the final peel of the referee’s ACME Thunderer either, scoring 90th minute goals in five of their last six outings.
Ireland too have developed a penchant for scoring late goals – whether out of necessity or expansiveness – in this qualifying group, making it seem highly likely there will be more goals in the second half at Friends Arena.