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Silky Sweden make Ireland pay for missed chances

All guts, no glory at the Aviva Stadium as the Republic of Ireland fell to a 3-0 Euro 2025 qualifier defeat against a tough, silky Sweden on Friday night.

The hosts spurned some golden chances in the opening half, with Lily Agg and Amber Barrett (twice) both fluffing their lines.

In an incredibly difficult group, such profligacy simply never goes unpunished and the Swedes duly settled the contest thanks to a Johanna Rytting Kaneryd brace – one in each half – and Fridolina Rolfo’s terrific strike.

As they did against France and England, Ireland ended with a flourish, Megan Campbell’s blockbuster throw-ins their chief attacking spark.

But this game – as most games are – was decided by a difference in quality in both boxes. The Swedes had class up top and elite experience at the back.

Ireland face them again in Stockholm on Tuesday night still pointless and yet to score a goal in qualification. Already the focus is shifting to the autumn play-offs, with pride and some tangible tactical progress now the only realistic motivators for the Girls in Green.

The FAI had hoped for a crowd of 30,000 but, with Leinster playing Connacht across the road in the RDS and a full round of League of Ireland fixtures ongoing, the attendance fell well short of that: 22,868 was the official figure given.

The Swedes had repeatedly aired their expectation that this contest would be physical and they were not disappointed in a high-octane opening.

Kyra Carusa charged down a Nathalie Bjorn clearance; Lily Agg somehow escaped a booking after steaming into a two-footed tackle on Fridolina Rolf; then McCabe tangled with Nathalie Bjorn, who was left wincing in pain on the Lansdowne Road turf.

The Girls in Green were fired up, but there was cohesion in the chaos, bright patterns of play that stretched the visitors.

A McCabe corner caused panic in the Sweden box, and when the ball scuttled back out to where it arrived from, the Ireland captain twisted the guts of Madelen Janogy before teasing in another inviting cross that came to nothing.

Peter Gerhardsson’s charges were rattled, but they are not ranked sixth in the world for nothing and their slick transitional play kept the home crowd on edge.

Still, it was Ireland who should have broken the deadlock.

With 22 minutes on the clock, Barrett hared on to a diagonal and clipped a clever cross into the area, but Agg – who had covered huge ground to offer support – could only sidefoot her close-range effort past the post. It was a gilt-edged opportunity, and a miss that was ruthlessly punished six minutes later.

Quality one- and two-touch build-up play culminated in Kosovare Asslani slipping in Chelsea’s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, who emphatically slammed her finish beyond Brosnan.

Rytting Kaneryd threatened to make it two a few minutes later when she tiptoed into the home box, only to see her goalbound effort shinned away by the recovering Hayes. From the resultant corner, Jess Ziu was absolutely blessed to escape unpunished when she clattered into Filippa Angeldal when misjudging an attempted volleyed clearance. It was a stonewall penalty, but the ref waved it away.

A rub of the green, and it could’ve stung the Swedes even more if Ziu’s peach of a cross moments later had been converted by Barrett. Instead, she thumped a free header over the bar.

Five minutes before the break, Barrett could have redeemed herself if she’d shown a softer touch after a punt over the top had caught out Linda Sembrant. The Donegal striker held her head in hands after the ball popped off her instep and keeper Zecira Musovic gobbled it up.

Big chances; costly misses.

Ireland are learning harsh lessons at this level, but if their spirit cannot be questioned, their quality in key moments can. Gleeson’s team kept fighting on the turnaround, but they were starting to look weary against opponents who exuded class.

Sweden looked smarter, stronger and much more composed. And they were beginning to turn the screw.

First, the razor-sharp Ziu bailed out Brosnan, who had allowed a cross to squirm under body. Janogy thought she had an open goal; Ziu had other ideas, bravely poking it out of the Fiorentina forward’s reach. Brosnan then reasserted herself with a strong parry to deny Rolfo as Ireland had to hang tough.

But in the 62nd minute Sweden extinguished the underdogs’ hopes when a deflected cross fell to Rolfo, and she curled a beautiful effort beyond the outstretched Brosnan.

Gleeson introduced Leanne Kiernan and Megan Campbell in search of an X-factor. Campbell didn’t even have to wait a minute for a chance to unload her famous throw. The decibel levels rose exponentially as she flung in a mighty delivery that Sweden hacked away.

As Ireland pushed, they inevitable left gaps and Sweden wrapped it up with five minutes to go when Brosnan palmed Matilda Vinberg’s shot into the path of Rytting Kaneryd, whod smashed home her second of the night via the underside of the crossbar.

And that was that. Good night Dublin, next stop Stockholm.

Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Jess Ziu, Anna Patten (Megan Campbell 73), Louise Quinn, Caitlin Hayes, Katie McCabe (capt); Megan Connolly, Jessie Stapleton (Tyler Toland 60), Lily Agg (Leanne Kiernan 73); Amber Barrett (Emily Murphy 84), Kyra Carusa (Aoife Mannion 73)

Sweden: Zecira Musovic; Nathalie Bjorn, Linda Sembrant, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson; Filippa Angeldahl, Kosovare Asllani (capt, Matilda Vinberg 67), Julia Zigotti Olme; Johann Rytting Kaneryd (Sofia Jakobsson 86), Madelen Janogy (Pauline Hammarlund 67), Fridolina Rolfo (Rosa Kafaji 89).

Referee: Katalin Kulcsar (Hungary)

Attendance: 22,868

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