Ireland unfortunate as Clark own-goal ensures the spoils are shared in Group E opener

Ireland unfortunate as Clark own-goal ensures the spoils are shared in Group E opener
(photo: vavel)

I've been Jack McGraghan, and thanks for tuning in to VAVEL's live commentary of Group E's opening game between Ireland and Sweden! Make sure to follow our Euro 2016 coverage throughout the tournament so you don't miss any of the action!

All eyes will now be on the game between Belgium and Italy at 8PM, with a win for either side putting them firmly in pole position in Group E going into the second round of games.

Jeff Hendrick and Wes Hoolahan were amongst the star players for O'Neill's side, as they overshadowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a largely quiet game although he did provide the cross that resulted in the equalising goal.

Ireland were arguably the better team for large periods of the match and will take confidence from their display, but in the end a point is all they get after Sweden's spell of pressure resulted in an own goal from Ciaran Clark.

It's all over at the Stade de France! It finishes 1-1 here as the two sides both take a point from the opening game in Group E.

92' - That's a nasty one for McGeady! He feels the full force of Granqvist's studs as they both go for the ball in the middle of the park.

90' - There will be three minutes of added time here, can either side find a winning goal?

86' - Sweden also use this opportunity to make their final change, as Oscar Lewicki leaves the pitch to be replaced by Albin Ekdal.

85' - Third and final change for O'Neill's side, with Aiden McGeady taking to the field in the place of James McCarthy. It's certainly an attacking change, but will it pay off?

82' - Sweden continue to threaten down the left-hand side here, this time it's Olsson who fires a low ball across the face of goal that is just missed by Ibrahimovic.

79' - Ireland have made their second change of the game and on comes their all-time top scorer Robbie Keane, who takes the place of goal scorer Wes Hoolahan.

77' - It's all getting a bit fiesty on the pitch here! Whelan goes into the book for a late challenge on Forsberg, but the referee seems to have missed the potential yellow card offence by Ibrahimovic just seconds before.

76' - The ball is put in to the back of the net, but only after the whistle had already gone for a foul by Clark in the penalty area. Correct decision from the referee.

75' - Ireland are back on the front foot though as they look to regain the lead, they have a corner here...

72' - Guidetti and Ibrahimovic linked up well just inside the box, before the latter sent a low ball towards the near post where Clark unfortunately put the ball past his own keeper with Larsson waiting just behind him.

72' - Sweden have finally found the goal they needed, and it's despair for Ciaran Clark who has turned it into his own net to make it 1-1!

GOAL! SWEDEN HAVE EQUALISED!

69' - The game has settled down a touch now, with Ireland's last substitution seeing them change to a 4-5-1 as they look to close the game out in the final 20 minutes.

63' - Ireland make their first change of the match, as James McClean takes to the field in place of Jon Walters. The latter was a doubt to start the match and so it comes as no surprise that he is taken off just after the hour mark.

61' - Sweden receive their first booking of the game, as Victor Lindelof is deemed to have struck Jon Walters in the face and picks up a yellow card.

60' - Ibrahimovic gets his first real sight of goal, holding off Clark and connecting with the cross in to the six yard area, but he can only send his effort wide.

59' - Sweden make their second change, as John Guidetti comes on for Marcus Berg in a like for like swap up front.

57' - Hendrick wins his side a free-kick near the halfway line, relieving the Swedish pressure that has been building since the opener.

51' - That Ireland goal seems to have fired Sweden up a bit, this is definitely their best spell of the game so far.

50' - Sweden pass up a glorious opportunity to equalise almost instantly! Randolph pulls off a reflex save and the ball falls to Forsberg with the goal gaping, but he rushes his shot and sends it flying over the bar!

47' - You can't say it hasn't been coming! Coleman finds Hoolahan near the penalty area with a chipped ball and the Norwich City midfielder makes no mistake with a fantastic finish on the half-volley!

GOAL! IRELAND HAVE FINALLY FOUND THE BACK OF THE NET!

46' - Hendrick is certainly fired up for this one! He drills a low effort towards Isaksson's goal, but it just lacked the direction required to break the deadlock and it turns out to be a routine save for the Swede.

45' - Ireland get us underway here, as both sides make no changes at half-time, although Sweden were of course forced into a change just before the halfway point.

The teams are back out and the second half is about to begin here, but will we see a breakthrough from either side?

That's it for the first-half of this cagey encounter. Ireland have had the better of the chances and have given their opponents no space whatsoever her, all that is missing is that golden touch! It remains 0-0 at the break.

45' - We're going to have just the one minute of stoppage time here, with the game still goalless.

44' - Sweden are forced into making a change at the back here, as Mikael Lustig goes off with an injury and is replaced by Erik Johansson.

43' - The first booking of the game comes just before half-time, as McCarthy goes into the book for pulling back Forsberg. He can have no complaints with that one.

41'  - Ireland go close yet again! A teasing ball across the face of goal by Brady flashes past everyone in the area, with Long arguing that he was impeded by a Swedish defender!

39' - Larsson whips the ball in to the area, where it is cleared and headed back in towards Ibrahimovic who is unable to direct his flick on target thanks to the pressure from Brady.

38' - Sweden have their first corner here, lets see if they can use the height of their squad to their advantage.

32' - Ireland are getting closer and closer now! A fluid move in the final third sees Hendrick whip a stunning strike towards goal that cannons off the bar!

29' - That certainly wasn't far away! Brady cuts inside and on his weaker right foot unleashes a powerful effort that just whistles over the bar!

26' - Ibrahimovic is caught offside as Sweden struggle to build any meaningful attacks, in what has been a scrappy game in truth thus far.

22' - That's hugely disappointing from a man of his quality! I don't think #DaretoZlatan will catch on much longer if he continues smashing free-kicks straight in to the wall!

21' - Sweden have a free-kick around 30 yards out here, and with Ibrahimovic standing over it there is cause for concern within the Irish contingent here in the stadium.

17' - Third time is so nearly a charm for Ireland, as their third corner slips by the defenders and rolls agonisingly past O'Shea and Long at the far post. One touch could have put them a goal to the good!

16' - Roy Keane is looking as excited as usual here, as his side win a free-kick halfway into the Swedish half after a foul on Walters.

15' - Ireland have their second corner here, they will be hoping for a better delivery from Brady this time around.

11' - The Irish were almost caught asleep there! A lofted ball from the far side aimed at Berg evaded the defence, but Randolph was quick on his feet to claim the ball before anything could come from it.

9' - Ireland with their first sight of goal, as Hendrick drills the ball towards the near post but sees his shot parried by Isaksson for Ireland's first corner of the match.

7' - Sweden enter the final third for the first time, but they can't find the final ball they need as a few scrappy moments in the box result in an Ireland throw-in on the far side of the pitch.

3' - It's a disappointing set-piece in the end as the ball is cleared and put back in to the box, only to roll out harmlessly for a goal-kick.

2' - Larsson gives away a free-kick in a dangerous area on the edge of the box, although Brady looked to go down rather softly.

1' - And we're off! Ireland will attack towards the right with their opponents attacking towards the left.

The teams are on the pitch and going through their national anthems now, unsurprisingly the Northern Irishman O'Neill elects not to join in with the singing.

Just under 10 minutes until kick-off now, with both sides opting to play two striker formations, although Ireland's all-time top scorer Robbie Keane begins the match on the bench.

Speaking of the Black Cats, there are six players in the Irish squad that have turned out for the Wearsiders at some point in their career, not forgetting that manager O'Neill and assistant manager Keane have both taken the hot seat in the North-East!

An interesting point to note today is that Sunderland team-mates O'Shea and Larsson will face each other, so perhaps the latter has been giving talisman Ibrahimovic tips on how to beat the Irish captain.

Now for the Swedish substitutes: Olsen, Carlgren, Johansson, Ekdal, Jansson, Hiljemark, Wernbloom, Augustinsson, Kujovic, Guidetti, Durmaz, Zengin.

And your substitutes, starting once again with Ireland: Westwood, Given, Keogh, McGeady, Keane, McClean, Duffy, Christie, Ward, Meyler, Murphy, Quinn.

And here is the Swedish line-up: Isaksson; Lustig, Granqvist, Lindelof, Olsson; Larsson, Kallstrom, Lewicki, Forsberg; Berg, Ibrahimovic; with Hamren starting with an attacking 4-4-2 formation.

Here are your teams for today's match, starting with the Irish 11: Randolph; Coleman, Clark, O'Shea, Brady; Hendrick, Whelan, McCarthy; Hoolahan; Long, Walters; as O'Neill sets his side up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Walters shaking off his injury to make the squad.

To tide you over until kick-off, you can check out VAVEL UK's team previews for Ireland and Sweden by clicking on the team that you wish to learn more about.

Erik Hamrén's side on the other hand are injury free, meaning players such as Kim Kallstrom, Marcus Berg and Ibrahimovic are all at his disposal for tonight's opening match.

O'Neill is currently sweating over the fitness of the aforementioned Walters, who has not trained fully this week due to an achilles injury and will have to wait until the day of the game to find out if he will make the starting 11. The manager has been boosted by the return of all-time top scorer Robbie Keane and full-back Robbie Brady, with the two shaking off a calf and back injury respectively.

Ireland on the other hand do not have a world-class player within their ranks, and must rely on the fighting spirit that got them to the tournament if they are to progress beyond the group stage. Players such as Jon Walters and James McCarthy could prove pivotal to their campaign if fit, and their team-mates will know that they all must be on top of their game in order to do their country proud.

Zlatan's goals sent Sweden to the finals (photo: Getty Images)
Zlatan's goals sent Sweden to the finals (photo: Getty Images)

Sweden's key player is of course the current free agent Ibrahimovic, who will almost certainly be snapped up by a Champions League club come the end of the tournament. The 34-year old netted an outstanding 38 goals in 31 games for PSG in Ligue 1 last season, ending his time in the French capital on a high as he looks to begin a new chapter in his career.

Martin O'Neill's side were on a five game unbeaten run until they were shocked at home by Belarus on May 31, who beat Ireland 2-1 in a game that left O'Neill assistant manager Roy Keane wanting "to kill some of them [the players]". Keane will hope that he does not reach those levels of anger and frustration again tonight against a Sweden side that have only lost one from their last 10 matches, a 2-1 defeat to Turkey on March 24.

Sweden also progressed via the play-offs, after finishing third in their group that contained an unbeaten Austria side, who would have completed a clean sweep of 10 wins if the Blue Yellows had not managed a 1-1 draw away to the group winners thanks to a 12th minute strike from Erkan Zengin. Sweden made their way to the finals after overcoming Denmark by a 4-3 aggregate scoreline in the play-offs, thanks to three goals by star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a man that the Irish will no doubt be aware of tonight.

So how did Ireland and Sweden fare in their respective qualifying groups? The Boys in Green finished third in Group D and conceded just seven goals in their 10 matches, with a 1-0 win over World Cup holders Germany a feat they will hope to repeat if they are to spring a surprise in the finals. The Irish progressed to the play-off stage thanks to their third placed finish and overcame Bosnia & Herzegovina by a 3-1 aggregate scorline in order to reach the EURO 2016 finals.

These two teams are arguably the underdogs of Group E, and with heavyweights Italy and Belgium facing off at 8PM so a win for Ireland or Sweden could put them in a great position going into the second round of matches on June 17 and 18, with the loser facing a tough task if they stumble at the first hurdle tonight.

Tonight's match will be contested at the marvellous 81,338 capacity Stade de France, which is coincidentally where the final will be held on July 10. But will we see Ireland or Sweden competing in that match in just under a months time? It would certainly be a shock, but as Greece showed the continent in 2004, anything can happen.

Good evening everyone, and welcome to VAVEL UK's live commentary of the EURO 2016 Group E opener between the Republic of Ireland and Sweden. I'm Jack McGraghan and I'll be taking you through tonight's 5PM kick-off play-by-play, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy what will hopefully turn out to be a gripping encounter between these two sides.