Richard Keogh Shane Long Ireland
Richard Keogh is expected to get the nod in central defence, while Shane Long will be a vital for Ireland when they play Sweden in Euro 2016. Pictured: Keogh and Long at the end of a friendly against the Netherlands, May 27, 2016Reuters

A winning start will be essential when the Republic of Ireland and Sweden lock horns in this opening Group E match of Euro 2016. With heavyweights Belgium and Italy making up the remaining teams of the group, Ireland and Sweden will know the importance of three points from this encounter at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.

The last time a match took place at this stadium, a wonderful, late goal decided the contest as Dimitri Payet inspired France to victory over Romania in the opening match of Euro 2016. While neither Ireland nor Sweden will mind a bit of drama as long as they are the team to come out on top, both sides will hope for a more controlled performance and result.

It goes without saying that Sweden's fortunes will depend on one man – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If Ibrahimovic fires, so will Sweden, such is the importance of the always-entertaining striker. The question for Sweden coach Erik Hamren to answer for this matchup against Ireland is who will partner Ibrahimovic up front.

John Guidetti and Marcus Berg are the two candidates for that coveted position, with Hamren likely to sway towards the latter. Guidetti pushed for a place in the Sweden starting XI with a goal against Wales in the 3-0 international friendly win, but with Berg having more experience, Hamren is likely to go with the 29-year-old.

The rest of the XI should select itself, while Ireland also go into this match with most of their starting XI settled. The one decision for Martin O'Neill to make is if Richard Keogh or Ciaran Clark will partner John O'Shea in defence. It looks likely that Keogh will get the nod.

Ireland's central midfield will comprise of experienced Premier League players in Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy along with Jeff Hendrick, while Wes Hoolahan is expected to play in the hole behind strikers Jonathan Walters and Shane Long.

Long, with Robbie Keane set to start from the bench, will be the key and he needs to inspire the Republic of Ireland to victory just like Ibrahimovic is expected to do for Sweden.

Confirmed starting XI: Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, O'Shea, Clark, Brady; Whelan, McCarthy, Hendrick; Walters, Long.

Sweden: Isaksson; Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Olsson; Larsson, Lewicki, Kallstrom, Forsberg; Ibrahimovic, Berg.

Also read