France advanced to the quarterfinals of the European Championship in unimpressive fashion Tuesday,losing 2-0 to Sweden but going through thanks to England’s win over Ukraine.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one of the best goals of the tournament with an acrobatic volley in the 54th minute and Sebastian Larsson added an injury-time goal to give already eliminated Sweden its first points of the tournamen.
The margin of victory could have been bigger as France was outplayed for much of the game despite only needing a draw to guarantee a spot in the next round and facing a team with nothing to play for but pride.
The loss ended France’s 23-game unbeaten streak but it still finished second in Group D after England beat Ukraine 1-0 in Donetsk. France will face Spain in the quarterfinals but will need a much better performance to give the defending champions much of a challenge.
England finished with seven points,while France had four and Ukraine and Sweden bowed out with three each.
France looked lackluster throughout much of the game and lacked clinical finishing when it did threaten the Swedish goal.
Substitute Jeremy Menez had France’s best chance to equalize when he broke into the area in the 81st minute but his low shot was stopped by goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson’s leg. From the resulting corner,Olivier Giroud headed just wide.
Karim Benzema was largely ineffective again and remained scoreless at the tournament.
Instead,it was Ibrahimovic who stole the show with another spectacular goal to add to his resume. The tall AC Milan striker met Sebastian Larsson’s cross from the left and put himself nearly sideways in the air before striking the ball perfectly past a helpless Hugo Lloris in the France goal.
Lloris then single-handedly kept France in the game over the next few minutes as Sweden kept pressing,making point-blank saves to deny Christian Wilhelmsson and Olof Mellberg.
Larsson finally added the second by emphatically volleying a rebound into an empty net and finally giving the large contingent of Swedish fans a reason to celebrate.
For France,though,it’s back to the drawing board after a performance that would not go far against a team like Spain.