Republic Of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is adamant that Ireland will not man-mark Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Ireland take on Sweden in their Group E opener at Euro 2016 next week.
Ireland face Erik Hamrén’s Swedish squad at the Stade De France on Monday, June 13, and O’Neill has confirmed that has no intentions of asking his players to man-marking the former PSG striker.
“Naturally we will have to be very concerned of Ibrahimovic,” O’Neill told reporters at a press conference in Dublin on Monday.
“He’s a top class player, one of the best in Europe and just an exceptional talent. We will have to be carefully matched, we will have to watch him and try match up against him, but I’m not so sure about someone man marking him.
“Dangerous areas of course, but that’s anything within 30 yards of our goal so he is going to be a concern.”
Derby County centre-back Richard Keogh confirmed O’Neill’s non-committal to man-marking when he told reporters that the Ireland manager gave him no prior instruction to stay on Thomas Muller or Robert Lewandowski during the Germany or Poland games.
Muller, of course, was held scoreless during Ireland’s 1-0 win over Germany in October while Lewandowski scored the winner for Poland during their final qualifier against Ireland a few days later.
Keogh admitted that the Irish defenders do their due diligence on opposing strikers in the lead up to big games, but that the manager doesn’t necessarily give them specific instruction on who to mark.
“We go over their strengths, where they like to play and where they pick up certain positions for sure but in general play it’s more of a team effort,” the 29-year-old explained.
“One individual doesn’t make a team and that’s one of our strengths, we work very hard for each other and if you make a mistake, you know full well that someone is going to try and work their backside off to get you out of it.
“I think it’s just a great challenge as a player to play against these great players.”
Ireland trained at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown on Monday with Robbie Keane returning to training after sitting out the Belarus game with a calf injury.
James McCarthy also trained but still looks like he has yet to overcome a groin/thigh injury as he was less than 100% during warm-ups and conditioning.
Meanwhile, Jon Walters and Robbie Brady both sat out with an achilles issue and back spasms respectively. O’Neill said that both players are improving and neither one is in doubt to miss Ireland’s opener against the Swedes.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena