Sweden expects, Ireland hopes. One nation is collectively aiming for a point to guarantee their anticipated participation in a World Cup, another trying convincingly to earn a point to qualify for a first major tournament.
It is inevitable that Sweden’s ambitions will prevail given their status as Europe’s pre-eminent team. The Olympic runners-up, who are hoping to compete at the European Championships this summer, now belong in such high-profile company.
“I hope to be sitting here after we won the European Championship and I can say that this is the best team I have ever worked with,” said Caroline Seger, who has played 224 times for a variety of Swedish Teams has enjoyed impressive growth for much of this millennium.
Her surname means “victory” in her native language; Their nation’s attributes are modest, but this team is imperceptibly becoming an amiable cast of the winner’s circle.
Yesterday they announced their desire to move from Galma Ullevi here in Gothenburg and play at Stockholm’s national stadium, Friends Arena, where they will face Brazil in a summer friendly.
“I don’t like the talk of being an underdog,” said Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson, whose side will be showing off a jersey with instructions on the inside of the collar on how to beat them. “You like being a winner.”
Vera Pauw politely referred to her family tree — “When you perform, you’re entitled to these things, eh?” — when asked about her thoughts.
“And then we have Andy Holt, our analyst. It would be strange if we did something like that. But it’s nice for the game. Well done.”
Nonetheless, despite their low ranking in the middle tier of the international game, the Republic of Ireland are hoping to declare their intention to be part of this company as well.
“Yes, we definitely have the caliber of players to be up there,” admits Katie McCabe, Arsenal’s Women’s Super League title chaser who already exists on a higher plane than most mere mortals.
“We definitely want to be a team that is difficult to play against, that teams hate to have this fight against. In October we showed good insights into how we can also play.
“Yes we can defend in a low block but we can show how exciting we are going forward as Denise O’Sullivans and Heather Paynes are capable of doing that going forward.
“We know our qualities and what we’re good at and we’ll take that with us tomorrow,” said Ireland’s McCabe.
Their primary goal is to secure the play-off, which remains firmly in their own hand thanks to Finland’s failure against Slovakia last Friday.
Much like the teams’ first meeting in Dublin, their immediate aim will be to confuse standout opponents with typically tiger-like devilry on the ball and, as the Swedes gruffly murmured afterwards, off the ball.
“We only had five free-kicks, two of which we didn’t think were fouls,” protested Pauw, noticing minor concerns from the Swedes last time out.
“I don’t know what they were talking about, there isn’t an opponent in this position who gives away fewer free-kicks.
“We know we play with passion, but we always play within the rules.”
Sweden are choosing from a fuller deck than Dublin’s, with Fridolina Rolfö, Filippa Angeldahl and Amanda Nildén missing Sunday’s practice session due to Covid symptoms.
Pauw’s pick could be more controversial, especially framed by the absence of this campaign’s breakthrough artist Savannah McCarthy, who is marked absent on her left center-back bunk.
The lack of alternatives through injury could prompt them to rearrange their formation from full-backs to a flat back four, which could result in veteran Áine O’Gorman returning at right flank while captain McCabe is thrown into left-back position.
Sweden did a lot of damage on the left flank, mainly through Stina Blackstenius, who caused a lot of trouble for Jamie Finn and Niamh Fahey; Finn’s industry could be moved to a midfield position to match Sweden’s central trio, alongside Megan Connolly and Ruesha Littlejohn.
Denise O’Sullivan, Lucy Quinn and Heather Payne can provide the limited attacking threats on a night when Sweden dominate possession and Ireland need to be careful with their limited loot.
Sweden’s journey is one that Ireland hopes to emulate in the years to come; a far cry from 30 years ago, when a 10-0 defeat by them forced Ireland to temporarily sit out of international A qualifiers.
Over 12,000 of the 14,463 tickets available were sold to a venue where around 2,000 corpses were shaved as the two standing galleries behind each goal are not allowed to be used, as per UEFA’s puritanical panjandrums.
Most of them will expect to be on their feet until the final whistle to celebrate another significant Swedish landmark.
Ireland’s aim will be to demonstrate that its rising graph is leading the way, that it is following it
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/international-soccer/irish-underdogs-must-continue-to-follow-with-their-upward-curve-41544064.html The Irish underdogs need to continue on their upward curve