France advance despite 2-0 loss
KIEV, Ukraine (AP):
France were given a rude wake-up call by Sweden yesterday as they were beaten 2-0 in their final group game and had to rely on England to reach the quarter-finals of the European Championship.
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 their first points of the tournament.
"We really wanted to win this game for the fans, their support has been fantastic," Ibrahimovic said. "We wanted to finish this strongly for them."
France, meanwhile, limp into the knockout round with big problems to solve in both defence and attack. Sweden exposed the frailties of their back four and were able to neutralise the dual threat of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery.
The margin of victory could have been bigger as France were 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 they still finished second in Group D after England beat Ukraine 1-0 in Donetsk.
France will face Spain in the quarter-finals, but will need a much better performance to give the defending champions much of a challenge.
"You have to be optimistic to think that we can beat Spain, but it's hard right now to imagine that we can. We have to do better on Saturday," coach Laurent Blanc said. "We wanted to finish top of the group, but couldn't manage it, so we have to deal with that."
England finished with seven points, while France had four, and Ukraine and Sweden bowed out with three each.