Knocked-out Sweden bring France down to earth

Knocked-out Sweden bring France down to earth

Ibracadabra: Zlatan produces a magic moment as Swedes beat Blanc’s men in Group D match

France drew a line under embarrassing first-round exits at two major championships when they scraped into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals in ugly fashion following a 2-0 defeat by eliminated Sweden on Tuesday. On a hot and humid night at the Olympic stadium,Les Bleus,who face Spain in Donetsk on Saturday,were undone by a sublime Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike and a late goal from Sebastian Larsson and finished second in Group D.

The result,which ended a 23-match unbeaten run,brought France down to earth after a convincing 2-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine with the central defence looking very shaky once again. Captain Hugo Lloris,however,pulled off a series of stunning saves to keep his team afloat after Ibrahimovic had sent a superb volley into the net in the 54th minute.

Blanc’s defensive puzzle may have been solved by Philippe Mexes himself,who had a night to forget but will miss the quarter-final through suspension. At least,France will have a chance to redeem themselves after being knocked out in the first round of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

They will clearly need to do that against defending champions Spain but they have shown they cannot be written off and have never lost a competitive game against the Spaniards. France,who suffered their first defeat by Sweden since 1969,will know they can rely on the superb Lloris. The keeper forced Ola Toivonen wide in the early stages after the striker was allowed to run free following a defensive blunder by Mexes.

France enjoyed long spells of possession but lacked sharpness and clearly missed the neat passing of Yohan Cabaye,who was rested in favour of Yann Mvila. The match swung Sweden’s way when Ibrahimovic produced his magic moment and Erik Hamren’s side continued to pile on the pressure.