France set for 'decisive' match against Sweden
Kyiv, Ukraine (Sports Network) - France manager Laurent Blanc acknowledged it was important to end the country's drought at major tournaments with a victory over Ukraine, but the "decisive" match is Tuesday against Sweden.
France downed co-host Ukraine, 2-0, on Friday to win at a major tournament for the first time since the 2006 World Cup semifinals. The run started in the '06 final, a shootout loss to Italy, and ran through the Euro 2012 opener.
The French were winless in Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, and tied England, 1-1, to open the tournament co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine this summer.
Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored in a three-minute stretch against Ukraine, as the six-year, eight-game drought ended.
"As the French know very well, it's been a long time since we won a game at a major tournament," Blanc said. "We're very happy to have won.
"Six years in major competitions and to not win a game is a long time. I hope our next win isn't in six years. If it is, then I want to be here to talk about it because I'll have been fired long before."
France enters its final Group D game against Sweden, which has been eliminated from quarterfinal contention, in need of only a draw to secure advancement. It could even advance with a loss, depending on other factors.
But Blanc and the French will want to add to the win over Ukraine, as it could remain atop the standings with a win over Sweden. England is also even on four points in the group and plays Ukraine on Tuesday. Ukraine is also alive.
"We'll prepare very well for the Sweden match, which we knew would be decisive after our draw in the first game," Blanc said.
Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin was convinced of the quality of France as he stated after the loss, "They're one of the best teams in the world."
France will need to show that quality against Sweden, a squad with nothing to lose in its final match of the tournament. And a team that will want to leave the competition on a high note, as it has lost its first two games.
"I'm really disappointed. So far we have played two really good halves, one OK half, and one bad one, and we're here with zero points," said Sweden boss Erik Hamren.
Sweden dropped its first game to Ukraine, 2-1, and its second game to England, 3-2. The Swedes have shown they can play with the other teams in the group and Blanc and the French will not be foolish enough to underestimate their foe.
"We have a saying in Swedish, 'The operation was really good but the patient died'. That's how I feel," Hamren said after the England loss.
Hamren acknowledged Sweden would need time to overcome the second loss and its elimination, and that could hinder the team against France.
"It's going to be at least 24 hours before we think about the next game," said Hamren on Friday. "We are really disappointed at the moment."