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It's a case of what might have been, as Ireland were held to a 1-1 draw by Sweden in their Euro 2016 Group E opener at the Stade de France.
Ireland took the lead after 48 minutes through Wes Hoolahan's brilliant half-volley, but then immediately sat back and allowed Erik Hamren's side to regain the initiative.
But a lumbering Sweden side still couldn't muster a shot on target through their own efforts, with the equaliser coming 19 minutes from the end when Ciaran Clark headed Zlatan Ibramovic's cross into his own net.
For 50 minutes the
Ireland diamond shone in Saint-Denis, with Glenn Whelan immense at
the base, the rock that allowed Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady to
attack down the flanks.
it was a 16th minute Brady set-piece that almost got Ireland on their way, with Clark's header from his whipped near-post corner just
rolling past the desperate stretch of John O'Shea in the six-yard
this wasn't the Ireland of old, content to soak up pressure with the
vain hope of nicking a goal from a dodgily-awarded set-piece.
were composed on the ball, tough in the tackle and eager to break
down a Sweden side they quickly recognised were there for the
Most of Ireland's dangerous moments came from that left boot of Brady, who tormented Mikael Lustig down the left flank, while Jeff Hendrick revelled in his role just off Hoolahan, and the Derby midfielder went closest for Ireland with a fine effort on 33 minutes that spanked off the Sweden crossbar.
were toothless and leaden, only able to offer a solitary, off-target shot
in the opening 45 minutes, with an increasingly tetchy Zlatan
disappearing deeper and deeper into O'Shea's pocket.
any fears that Ireland's momentum might be lost during the half-time
break were soon dissipated as Hoolahan broke the deadlock with a
brilliant half-volley into the far corner from Coleman's gambolling
run into the area and chip.
made what happened next all the more inexplicable – Ireland lost
their shape, allowed Sweden onto them, and almost paid the price
immediately, with first Emil Forsberg
and then Zlatan going close as Martin O'Neill's defence panicked.
And the inevitable Sweden equaliser arrived on 71 minutes, as Clark
headed Zlatan's cross from the left touchline into his own goal from
And with Belgium to come on Saturday for Ireland followed by Italy on Wednesday, and vice versa for Sweden, the nightmare scenario could be that both teams go out of the tournament with just this single point to show for their efforts.