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Sweden 2 France 0
One of the last matches of the Euro 2012 group stage saw Sweden entertain France in Kiev in a game that didn’t matter to the Swedes, but was important to determine whether the French will face Italy or Spain in the quarterfinals.
Erik Hamren couldn’t use Johan Elmander and Rasmus Elm due to injuries, although both of them were on the bench. Laurent Blanc on the other hand had decided to leave Yohan Cabaye and Jeremy Menez outside the starting XI, thus giving a chance to Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M’Vila to prove they’re worthy of first-team football.
Despite not having a chance to progress to the knockout stages, Sweden showed that they’ve not gone out for a stroll, and Ola Toivonen and Sebastian Larsson had chances to score within the first 5 minutes of the game.
It was Toivonen again who could have opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Mexes made a mistake in defence, when he couldn’t head the ball away properly. The PSV striker took control and had only Hugo Lloris to beat, but his first touch wasn’t good and he let the ball run away from him. He still managed to get a shot in though, but it was from a very tight angle, and not surprisingly it went out for a goal kick.
Judging by the first 10 minutes of the game, it seemed like we are in for a treat. Sadly, that’s not exactly how things developed. France started controlling possession more and more, while the Swedes were trying to surprise their opponents with crosses and long balls. Gradually the game started becoming duller and duller, and it was only when Ben Arfa would occasionally try a long-distance shot that things would become interesting.
When referee Pedro Proença blew his whistle to signal the end of the first half, he made millions of viewers from across the globe very happy, I’m sure about that. A first half that started in such a promising way, but then became extremely boring opposite the expectations. Were there to be goals in the second part- we were about to find out soon.
The answer is yes, and it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic to open the scoring in the 54th minute. Seb Larsson crossed from the right and the AC Milan striker caught it beautifully on the volley to make it 1-0 to his country. A truly magnificent strike that could even become the “Goal of the tournament”.
To be fair, it could have been France to score first, when in the 50th minute Karim Benzema beat the offside trap and could have banged it in, but he was too slow to react and once the defenders closed him down all he could do was shoot wide of the target.
In the 58th minute Ibrahimovic had another great chance to score, but this time Lloris saved. Kim Källström delivered a corner, the forward struck the ball but the goalkeeper got his fingertips to it and put it out for another corner.
From then on it was Les Bleus who dominated the game, but Samir Nasri and subs Florent Malouda , Jeremy Menez and Olivier Giroud missed some good opportunities.
And when everyone was expecting the game to finish 1-0, Sebastian Larsson decided he’s not happy with this result and scored another goal. Wilhelmsson made a run down the right, crossed the ball and Samuel Holmen’s volley hit the woodwork. The ball then ricochetted back off the crossbar and fell into the way of the Sunderland winger who had nothing else to do but smash the ball past the disorientated Lloris.
It was a great performance by Sweden, and had they played in the same way in their previous games, they could have easily gone through to the quarterfinals. Instead, they’re going to have to go back home now, while France will meet Spain in the last 8 round of the competition. But if Blanc’s men don’t step up their game, nothing positive will come out of it.
Sweden 2-0 France (HT 0-0)
Sports UN Man of the match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE)
SWEDEN (4-2-3-1): Isaksson, Granqvist, Mellberg, J. Olsson, M. Olsson, Svensson (77 Holmen), Kallstrom, Larsson, Ibrahimovic, Bajrami (46 Wilhelmsson), Toivonen (77 Wernbloom); Manager: Erik Hamren
FRANCE (4-5-1): Lloris, Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Clichy, M’Vila (83 Giroud), Diarra, Ben Arfa (59’ Malouda), Nasri (76 Menez), Ribéry, Benzema; Manager: Laurent Blanc
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR)
Goals: Ibrahimovic 54, Larsson 90
Bookings: Svensson 70, Holmen 81; Mexes 68