Swedes stun floundering France
Ibrahimovic and Larsson on target for hard-working Sweden
Last Updated: June 21, 2012 3:50pm
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Opened the scoring with a spectacular strike
France suffered their first defeat in 24 games as goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Seb Larsson sealed a famous win for Sweden at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
Ibrahimovic produced a special strike to open the scoring early in the second half before Sunderland midfielder Larsson added a second in stoppage time.
It meant Laurent Blanc's side ended Group D as runners-up and will meet world and European champions Spain at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Saturday evening.
In a frantic opening, France were given an early scare as Ola Toivonen headed wide before skipper Hugo Lloris was called into action to stop Larsson's effort.
But Les Bleus hit back immediately at the other end as Franck Ribery's left-foot shot was parried at the near post by Andreas Isaksson.
Philippe Mexes then allowed Toivonen to break clean through, but the PSV Eindhoven striker went too wide of Lloris and could only hit the outside of the post.
Nine minutes into the second half Sweden opened the scoring thanks to a blockbuster of a strike from the enigma that is Ibrahimovic.
Christian Wilhelmsson found Larsson in space down the right and his cross was met by the AC Milan striker just inside the area with an acrobatic right-foot volley, which flew into the bottom corner.
Yann Mvila tested Isaksson with a fizzing 30-yard effort as Laurent Blanc's side became increasingly frustrated.
Substitute Jeremy Menez then forced Isaksson into a good save and seconds later Olivier Giroud headed just wide from the resulting corner.
But the Swedes made the game safe when they broke forward in stoppage time and although Samuel Holmen's struck his shot into the ground and onto the crossbar, Larsson was on hand to smash the rebound home and secure a well deserved victory.
Blanc's men were second best throughout as they blew their big chance to emerge as group winners and in the end had England to thank for beating Ukraine and keeping them in the competition.
Erik Hamren's men, out after losing to both England and Ukraine, showed their intent from the start as they got forward well and fashioned their first chance with just three minutes on the clock.
Martin Olsson was allowed too much space on the left and floated a cross to Toivonen, who outjumped the French defence but could only direct his free header over the bar.
Larsson also headed over from an Olsson cross while the Swedes missed a golden chance in the 10th minute when Toivonen sprung clear and rounded French keeper Lloris only to then hit the post from a tight angle.
The French were struggling to make much of an impact, perhaps too secure in the knowledge that their last eight spot was virtually secure, though surely keen to avoid a meeting with Group C winners Spain.
Ribery fed Karim Benzema who blazed the best French chance over the bar but it was Sweden who continued to attack with more purpose, with Olsson in particular exploiting the space afforded him down the left.
The game drifted towards the interval in rather low-key fashion but France threatened in the final minute, Benzema playing in Ribery whose shot from just inside the box was blazed high over the bar.
Sweden continued to look more likely to break the deadlock early in the second period, Larsson setting up Olof Mellberg who was ruled narrowly offside, with the French struggling to break down a resolute Swedish defence.
They almost did so in the 50th minute, when Benzema sprang the offside trap to race clear on the left flank, and after cutting inside onto his favoured right foot, unleashed a shot which flew just wide of Andreas Isaksson's left-hand post.
Alou Diarra brought a simple save out of Isaksson but just as France looked to be getting to grips with the game, the Swedes stole forward once again and claimed their richly deserved opener.
Toivonen saw a shot blocked by Lloris then moments later Larsson delivered a drifting ball in from the right which Ibrahimovic met with a spectacular volley to crash the Swedes ahead.
Mellberg drew a magnificent close-range save out of Lloris as Sweden came close to adding a second, but the French began to respond, with Samir Nasri drilling a shot wide and Yann M'Vila firing straight at Isaksson.
Nevertheless it was a strangely lethargic performance from the French, who seldom looked likely to wrest the tie - and with it the destiny of Group D - back to their advantage.
Substitute Jeremy Menez scuffed a simple chance straight at Isaksson with eight minutes to go, then moments later Oliver Giroud headed over the bar from close range when he should have scored.Sweden made it two in injury time when Christian Wilhelmsson hammered Andreas Granqvist's cross against the bar and the ball rebounded for Larsson to ram home the simplest of chances.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||13|
|46.4||1st Half Poss.||53.6|
|38.4||2nd Half Poss.||61.6|
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||3||0|
European Championships Group D