France advances despite loss to Sweden
Kyiv, Ukraine (Sports Network) - France's 23-match unbeaten run ended Tuesday, but its Euro 2012 tournament will continue Saturday against Spain.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored off a spectacular volley and Sebastian Larsson added a second goal as Sweden downed France, 2-0, for its first victory at Euro 2012 on Tuesday.
France still finished second behind England in Group D and will face Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup winner Spain in the quarterfinals. Sweden was eliminated.
England edged Ukraine, 1-0, to win the group and will play four-time World Cup champion Italy in the quarterfinals Sunday. Ukraine was also eliminated.
France entered its final group fixture atop the standings, and the favorite to claim the group. The French's undefeated streak was the longest of any country in Euros, but Sweden - which lost its first two matches - did not fold.
Sweden showed from the start it was not going to end its tournament without a fight as Ola Toivonen fired off target and Sebastian Larson forced a save from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris inside 4 minutes.
Franck Ribery countered with a chance for France just a few minutes later, but a save from Sweden goalie Andreas Isaksson kept the match scoreless. It stayed that way, despite the best chance of the half in the 10th minute.
Toivonen won the ball against Philippe Mexes outside the area, then turned and went in alone on Lloris. Toivonen eventually rounded Lloris on the right side, but his shot from a tight angle caught the outside of the right post.
The teams settled down a little after the early chances, with a Hatem Ben Arfa rocket over the bar in the 35th for France the best opportunity over the rest of the half.
France opened the second half with another opportunity, this one through Karim Benzema, but Sweden was in front less than 10 minutes after the break.
Larsson sent a pass in from the right side, and Ibrahimovic had to take a step back to adjust, then twisted to unleash a stunning volley to the bottom corner in the 54th minute for his second goal of the tournament.
France buckled after it fell behind, and Sweden put Lloris under pressure with Christian Wilhelmsson forcing a pair of saves.
Samir Nasri produced a chance for France in the 64th, but swerved a shot just wide of the left post, and Sweden put the match away in the final minutes with the French unable to respond to the Ibrahimovic strike.
Larsson latched onto a rebound off the crossbar and fired home in the 90th, as Sweden sealed its first win - and point - to avoid joining the Netherlands and Ireland as teams that finished Euros with three losses in as many games.
France will have a few days to ponder its weak performance, but it will get to start over against Spain in the knockout stage.