France was outplayed, outfought and outscored, and that was against a team with nothing to play for.
France limped into the knockout round of Euro 2012 despite a 0-2 loss to Sweden in their final group game, showing just how much the team still needs to improve to be true contenders in the tournament. The French finished second in Group D after England beat Ukraine 1-0, and will face Spain on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
“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,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. “We wanted to finish top of the group but couldn’t manage it, so we have to deal with that.”
France’s 23-game unbeaten streak came to a crashing end as the already-eliminated Swedes exposed frailties in the back four and neutralized the dual attacking threat of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery.
The Swedes dominated proceedings for much of the game and Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock with a piece of artistry in the 54th minute, sending a spectacular volley past helpless goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Sweden had plenty of chances to add a second before Sebastian Larsson finally did in injury time to secure the team's first points of the tournament.
“We were too average in too many areas to hope to win this match,” Blanc said. “The Swedish team played with all their hearts, they were better prepared than us. They had a player in their ranks (Ibrahimovic) who made the difference. If you analyze the game, we were in trouble for most of it. The main thing is that we've qualified.”