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Mar 21, 2013

Ibra prepared for Ireland aggression

Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he does not fear the physical treatment he could face from Republic of Ireland on Friday night.

Ibrahimovic was speaking after Robbie Keane joked that Ireland would have to "kick" the striker when the teams meet for a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Stockholm.

"I'm prepared for everything," Ibrahimovic said. "Opponents have to do everything to stop the other team. That's what we have to do also. Let's see what the game will be. Hopefully it will be a nice game and nobody gets injured."

The Paris Saint-Germain star also completely dismissed the notion that there was any difference between his performances for club and country.

"No difference at all," he said. "Same Zlatan."

Sweden manager Erik Hamren, meanwhile, has said it is best to give Ibrahimovic a free role.

"For me, there's a little too much discussion on that, if he's No. 9 or No. 10," Hamren said. "He's one of two forwards. If you want, you can say we're playing 4-4-2.

"He's free. He's allowed to go down and pick up the balls and find the space behind the No. 9, and sometimes he's the front guy. He's got that role. In my opinion, that's the way to use him best. He takes the run too, as he showed in the scoring against England [in November's 4-2 friendly victory], but he can't take them all the time. His body is not built for that so we need players to do that too. So you'll see him in different styles."

Hamren also said it is better for everyone if the Friends Arena roof stays closed for Friday's game - even opposition manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

Amid talk of "gamesmanship", the Ireland boss demanded on Wednesday that the stadium be open, despite temperatures set to dip to -10.

"It is too loud," Trapattoni complained. "I was in Germany with this situation before, and it was bad for us because of the crowd. It would not be cold. The pitch is what's important. It's for the spectators that it will be cold."

Hamren, however, took on a more populist stance.

"I don't think it makes a difference for the players. But, for the audience, for supporters, for me and Trapattoni, it's better to have it locked. Then we don't have to have long-stockings on. In my opinion, let it it be closed. It's going to be cold tomorrow night. Those paying a lot of money to see the game, let them enjoy it. If they don't have it, they have to prepare [for the cold]. If they have [the roof], why not use it?"

Hamren, meanwhile, also expected a tight game that may go a long way to deciding second place in Group C behind Germany.

"[Ireland] are a really good team. We are full of respect for them. The team played in Euro [2012] last summer and is worth all respect. If you see away statistics from Ireland, you can see it is a really tough team to beat. I expect a tough game tomorrow and they always play, in my opinion, with heart in the green shirt.

"We are ready, the players are ready and it's going to be a tough game. It will be really tough to beat them. That's our goal, to be that good. Then we'll see what happens. There's only one point between us so, yeah, it will be a really important game."

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