He strides across the playing fields like a cross between a samurai and a ballerina. The phrase ‘He’s got a good touch for a big man’ really doesn’t do him justice. A fickle egomaniac or a tortured artist, whatever your feelings on Zlatan Ibrahimovic there is no denying that on his day he can be irresistible.
10 league titles spread across the Dutch, Italian, Spanish and French Leagues. His clubs read like a who’s who of glamorous European clubs Ajax, Juventus. both Milans, Barcelona and now PSG. Still having never plied his trade in England there remains an inexplicable suspicion of him, ‘could he do it on a wet Tuesday in Stoke’. The answer is an emphatic yes. Yes he could and it is the Premier League’s loss for never having gotten the opportunity to see him up close and personal on a weekly basis.
But is he all that an admittedly workmanlike Swedish team has to offer. Some of the more familiar name that pop out of the Swedish team include new Norwich signing Johan Elmander and Sunderland’s Seb Larsson. Elmander is a big physical threat but does not possess lightening pace, which is a relief with a centre back pairing of John O’Shea and Richard Dunne, but with decent technique he can still cause problems. Cast your mind back a few years to a memorable goal scored for Bolton against Wolves where twinkle toes preceded a fine finish. It remains to be seen if that form can be reproduced.
Seb Larsson, an Arsenal graduate, is not a very direct pacy winger, the opposite of his former Sunderland teammate McClean, he has alway given the impression he would rather be playing in the centre as an attacking midfielder. His prowess from the dead ball both crosses and direct shots at goal mean that Ireland need to be wary of giving away needless frees around the box.
A strong home performance from an Irish team with the backing of a vocal home support should see the Irish team through tonight. With an experienced and settled back four augmented by the return of the talismanic Dunne hoping Ibrahimovic has an off night, Ireland’s hopes of a goal will fall on their record goal scoring captain Robbie Keane. His lack of contribution in general play means that Keane’s presence relies on his ability to sniff out a goal. In a massive weekend for Ireland here’s hoping the presence of Dunne and Keane has the fortifying influence their experience would suggest.