World Cup 2014 qualifiers | Ireland v Sweden, Aviva, Dublin (7.45pm)
Owen Cowzer, football reporter with The Irish Sun, writes for the Paddy Power Blog on the mood in the camp and says Sweden really are a one-man team…
THERE is always something different about games at this time of a qualifying campaign.
The optimism of the start of the campaign has either been replaced by hope or desperation depending how the results have gone inthe meantime.
Rarely for Ireland, the predominant mood within the camp is one of expectation which makes the build-up to this week very strange.
You expect players to talk up their chances of course. But this week there has been more an air of quiet confidence.
It has been all business at Gannon Park in Malahide, Co Dublin. No trips around the town for bored players or even a day out at Tuesday’s cricket international.
Quiet confidence and Dexter on DVD
Instead, they have been confined to barracks long enough for Simon Cox to catch about eight hours of Transfer Deadline Day and new boy Anthony Pilkington – whose curious facial furniture makes him look Swedish, by the way – a chance to watch two series of Dexter on DVD.
The quiet confidence reminds this reporter a lot of their attitude going into the Euro 2012 play-off with Estonia.
At that time, you wondered how a team so used to being the underdog would cope with being the favourite. Instead, the team rightly believed it was up to them and delivered on the night.
Trap thinks attack
There is the same attitude going into this Sweden game. Robbie Keane spoke on Thursday of having no nerves going.
Giovanni Trapattoni admitted he considered playing four forwards and he is meant to supposed to be a defensive minded coach! Clearly Sweden pose no fears for him.
And you can understand why. The Swedish side is really Zlatan Ibrahimovic (below) and 10 others.
Swedes have big problems in Dublin
You look through the Swedish squad and the clubs they play for and there is no real difference to Trapattoni’s panel. The clubs listed are all middling clubs in big leagues; the likes of Norwich, Fulham and Sunderland.
The Swedes have also come here with big problems in defence as manager Erik Hamren cannot get a backline together he trusts.
This week, he is without Andreas Grangvist who is suspended and seems to have lost faith in West Bromwich Albion defender Jonas Olsson even though he kicked Shane Long from pillar to post in Stockholm last March.
Instead, he looks set to go into the game with Per Nilsson of Nurenburg and Bologna’s Mikael Antonsson at the heart of his defence. Two players in their 30s with nine caps each. Either Swedish defenders blossom very late or Hamren is papering over a defensive problem.
Trapattoni, on the other hand, has an embarrassment of riches at the heart of defence. John O’Shea and Ciaran Clark kept Zlatan quiet in Stockholm but he still has the luxury of bring Richard Dunne back in this evening.
It all points towards an Irish win but there is always a downside and that is our record in Dublin. Not since 2001 when Jason McAteer scored against Holland have Ireland beaten a team seeded higher than them in a competitive games.
But Ireland’s confidence is well placed and this is the best occasion to break that duck. Robbie Keane to score early and Ireland to hang on and win 1-0 is how I see it going.