Zlatan magic condemns Les Bleus to Spain clash


He may be going home early but Zlatan Ibrahimovic left a spectacular mark on Euro 2012 on Tuesday night. On an evening when France flopped badly to allow Roy Hodgson’s England to steal first place in the group, the Sweden captain delivered the goal of the last 11 days in sweltering Kiev. French defender Philippe Mexes will miss that game after being booked last night, and France even conceded a second goal in added time to the excellent Sebastian Larsson. The highlights reels will focus on Ibrahimovic, though. The Milan forward has endured an eventful tournament but his stand-out memory will be the falling volley he contributed from 16 yards in the 54th minute. The ball flew off his laces and into the net as he swept his right foot through the ball to connect with Larsson’s deep cross. It was a stunning goal and gave France the punishment they deserved for a wretched performance following a 23-game unbeaten run. It is unlikely they can recover in time for their meeting with the defending champions this weekend.
Those who saw them play so well to beat Ukraine last Friday would have fancied Blanc’s team to roll Sweden over. Maybe it was the oppressive heat in the Olympic Stadium or because two of the players who had played so well in Donetsk weren’t on the pitch. Winger Jeremy Menez was rested because he was on a yellow card and Yohan Cabaye was injured.
Sweden, with only pride to play for, should have been in the lead by half-time. They could have gone ahead as early as the third minute when striker Ola Toivonen peeled off the back of Gael Clichy and headed a deep Martin Olsson cross just over. Larsson had a header saved from a similar position before Toivonen galloped through after a mistake by the awful Mexes, rounded Hugo Lloris and hit the outside of a post from an angle. At times France looked lost. Newcastle forward Hatem Ben Arfa looked out of sync with Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery was having an evening to forget.