Sweden vs. France  2 - 0

Article

Euro 2012 Group D: Sweden 2 France 0

20 June 2012 03:11

France will play Spain in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals after surrendering top spot in Group D to England by losing 2-0 against Sweden.

Erik Hamren's men, who have already had their elimination confirmed after losing both of their games so far, frustrated the French side in the first half, with Ola Toivonen having two excellent chances to take the lead, but he failed to hit the target on both occasions.

Les Bleus looked very flat in the first half, with Franck Ribery forcing Andreas Isaksson into his only save of the period, as they looked nothing like the attacking threat that beat Ukraine 2-0, allowing the Swedes to keep things level at the break.

After half-time it was Sweden who looked the better side and deservedly took the lead when Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed home superbly, with Christian Wilhelmsson nearly adding a second soon after.

The Swedes then defended well, and even knocked in a second through Sebastian Larsson, forcing France to qualify as group runners-up with England beating Ukraine.

France started shakily at the back as sluggish defending from the two centre-backs allowed Toivonen to get his head on Martin Olsson's cross, however the ball sailed wide of the mark. Then, Larsson beat his man to head a cross towards goal but his effort turned out too tame to trouble Hugo Lloris.

The opening stages saw France create a number of chances for themselves as firstly Karim Benzema slipped Hatem Ben Arfa beyond the last defender but the Magpies man tried an ambitious shot from a tight angle, skewing the ball off-target.

Ribery had a brilliant chance to give his side the lead. After some poor defensive work from Andreas Granqvist who failed to clear the danger on two occasions, the Bayern Munich man pounced on the loose ball but saw his shot from an acute angle blocked by Andreas Isaksson.

With just over 10 minutes gone, Toivonen wasted a golden opportunity to deal a blow to Blanc's men. The forward found himself one-on-one with the French keeper, however he lost control of the ball with a poor touch and allowed Lloris to force him wide with the eventual shot into the side netting.

The game quietened down somewhat after that, although both sides had half-chances in the following 10 minutes as Benzema blazed over from a low Ribery cross and Larsson volleyed over from a Jonas Olsson knock-down.

Blanc's men continued to knock on the door in Kiev, but failed to find a way through and it was Sweden who had the next chance. Anders Svensson's shot found its way to Toivonen inside the six-yard box, however Lloris slid in quickly to deny the forward a moment to react, and the offside flag was also raised.

That chance seemed to give Hamren's side some belief, and they came out after half-time with intent as Wilhelmsson continued to trouble the French.

He controlled a long ball with a magnificent touch before beating Mathieu Debuchy and delivering to the back post where Larsson tested Lloris with a good volley.

The French keeper saved well but was helpless to deny Ibrahimovic from scoring the opening goal as the AC Milan player acrobatically volleyed into the back of the net five minutes before the hour-mark.

Sweden immediately searched for a second as Ibrahimovic nearly turned provider by holding up the ball before teeing up Wilhelmsson, but Lloris parried his effort behind.

Soon after Samir Nasri narrowly missed the target from the edge of the box but it was more woe for Blanc as Mexes picked up a yellow which sees him miss their next game.

Benzema was denied a shot on goal thanks to brilliant tracking from Jonas Olsson before Yann M'Vila tired his luck from outside the box, stinging the palms of Isaksson and winning a corner in the process - which France wasted.

Sweden's defence continued to hold firm as time ran-out for Les Bleus, with Mellberg denying Mexes with a brave last-ditch tackle with 10 minutes remaining.

The French loss was confirmed when Sweden added a late second in injury time through Larsson who smashed a volley into an empty net after Wilhelmsson's initial effort hit the crossbar, giving the Swedes their first victory against France since 1969 and handing Blanc an unenviable quarter-final with Spain.

Article

Euro 2012 Group D preview: Sweden v France

19 June 2012 20:30

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo could be the inspiration his club team-mate Karim Benzema needs to help France to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

The two Real Madrid team-mates failed to score in their initial two group games at the European Championships, prompting criticism Ronaldo and Benzema were failing to produce their best when their respective countries needed them.

Ronaldo and Benzema combined for 61 goals for Real Madrid last season and after Ronaldo scored both goals in Portugal's 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Sunday, France coach Laurent Blanc will hope Benzema can replicate that kind of performance against Sweden on Tuesday.

Blanc has backed Benzema to find his goal-scoring touch against the Swedes and argued the 24-year-old has been in good form so far at the continental championships.

"I'm not focusing on whether Karim scores or not," Blanc said in the lead-up to Tuesday's game in Kiev.

"He's an important player for us, and showed he had a good understanding with the wide players against Ukraine."

Benzema set up Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye to score in France's 2-0 win over Ukraine on Friday.

Midfielder Yann M'Vila has claimed those assists demonstrate the important role Benzema plays in the French national team.

"For me, Benzema is among the best strikers in the world," M'Vila said.

"I'm not worried about Karim because when he doesn't score he creates chances for others."

A win for France against Sweden will see Blanc's team finish top of Group D and qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.

France finished bottom of their groups at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup with just one draw at each tournament.

Sweden head coach Erik Hamren is expected to bring in some fresh faces against France after consecutive defeats in their first two matches at Euro 2012.

Hamren's squad is one of the oldest at the tournament and with World Cup qualifying coming up in September, he needs to test some of his younger players in top level competition.

While Sweden cannot advance to the knockout stages, Hamren is still confident his team are on the way up.

"I think there's hope for Swedish football," Hamren said.

"Even though it might take a while before we play the way I want us to."