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Sweden loses to Ukraine in Euro 2012 opener

Sweden loses to Ukraine in Euro 2012 opener

Published: 12 Jun 2012 06:08 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Jun 2012 06:08 GMT+02:00

Sweden went from elation to misery in the space of ten second half minutes in their opening Group D match of Euro 2012, as their hopes of progressing in the tournament were dealt a major blow by co-hosts Ukraine.

The night belonged to Ukraine’s veteran talisman Andrei Shevchenko, who drew the adulation of the home supporters in Kiev with a second half double of headed goals in the 55th and 61st minute that gave the hosts a 2-1 lead.

It was looking rosy for Sweden only moments earlier, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic had put them 1-0 up with a poacher’s finish.

"It's tough. It's a game we shouldn't have lost," Ibrahimovic told SVT following the defeat.

"We led 1-0 and had a safe lead. We cannot let that happen."

In a tight first half, Sweden looked to feel their way into the game’s intensely humid conditions, often sitting back and looking to hit on the counter attack.

Erik Hamren’s men created the best chance of a tense opening half, as Ibrahimovic peeled away majestically from his marker to give himself acres of space.

It looked as if he had all the time in the world to guide the ball into the corner of the net, but Swedes hung their heads as they watched the ball hit the outside of the post and go wide.

Ibrahimovic was looking in lethal touch in the first half, with his markers finding it difficult to deal with his strength and hold up play.

Ibrahimovic’s opening goal for Sweden finally came early in the second half. With a Ukraine defender lying motionless on the floor, Sebastian Larsson capitalized on the new-found space to drive down the right hand side, and eventually play in a deep cross.

The Ukraine defence couldn’t fully clear, and with the ball falling to Kim Källstrom at the back post, Ibrahimovic pounced on the Lyon midfielders poked cross ball to pass the ball underneath the Ukraine goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

It was exactly the kind of lift-off to a tournament the Swedish captain needed, and he will be hoping to build on this good early form in the rest of the tournament and against stronger opposition.

The goal proved not to be the catalyst for Sweden to go on to win however, as from then on the night belonged to Ukraine’s 35-year-old favourite and former European Player of the Year Shevchenko.

With Sweden looking in command at 1-0, the equalizing goal really came out of nothing. Andriy Yarmalenko put in some smart dribbling work on the right hand side, before delivering a lethal cross for Shevchenko to head in at Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson’s near post.

Six minutes later there was more glory for Shevchenko.

Oleh Gusev’s inswinging corner was met by the veteran, who had shaken off the sloppy marking of striker Ibrahimovic with some classy movement. His flicked header past the despairing Isaksson put the hosts 2-1 up and sent the home fans into ruptures. It was the moment of glory for Shevchenko that the whole of Ukraine had been waiting for.

Both goals highlighted Sweden’s need to tighten up in defence and in the air, something many experts had earmarked as the main weakness in the Swedish side.

Sweden pressed for an equalizer, and with seconds to spare they spurned a host of guilt-edged chances.

The best chance fell to substitute Johan Elmander – thrown on despite still nursing a foot injury – who after great hold-up work once again by Ibrahimovic, smashed his volley over the bar in a one-on-one situation.

The miss was greeted by a look of dismay from teammate Ibrahimovic, who would have been banking on his strike partner to score after his expert hold-up work.

Olof Mellberg may have also felt he had salvaged a point for Sweden in the dying moments, but his poked volley from a hanging cross looped over the crossbar.

Before the game Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin said it would be curtains in the tournament for whichever side lost this opening game. After being dealt a bitter blow in defeat, Hamren’s men must now pick themselves up for the even trickier prospect of facing England on Friday, followed by France.

The two heavyweight sides in the group played out a 1-1 draw earlier in the evening to leave Sweden bottom of the group, and with an uphill task to advance to the quarter finals.

"Now the situation is we face two games to try and make this situation better," a disconsolate Ibrahimovic added post-match.

Sweden's talisman will now have to emulate the heroics of his Ukrainian counterpart Shevchenko in the tournament's forthcoming games against England and France to keep his nation in the hunt for European glory.

Joe Lynskey

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Your comments about this article

08:53 June 12, 2012 by StockholmSam
It was an embarrasing display of football by Sweden. The new coach promised a break from Sweden's traditional style of sitting back on defense while the opposition controls the ball, probing for weaknesses in the Swedish defense. He promised we would not be booming the ball downfield and hoping for a mistake by the opposition. He promised a lively, attacking style with the forwards and midfield controlling the tempo. Unfortunately, what we saw was more of the same. Ukraine toyed with us all night while we just sat back and looked lost. We made them look like Spain with their crisp and clever passing and penetrating runs while we looked like the USA men's team circa 1994, just running around in circles getting tired and occasionally booting the ball downfield. Utterly, utterly pathetic.
09:45 June 12, 2012 by occassional
Maybe Z. can go hunting on his newly acquired island now.
09:45 June 12, 2012 by wolverine2k
And Zlatan didn't play well either. His foot work was all messed up and he was walking as if his legs were made of stick. I couldn't see the stamina and the go getting attitude the footballers should have. Shame...
10:13 June 12, 2012 by Twiceshy
1-0 is a safe lead now?
10:19 June 12, 2012 by djmarko
the group is still wide open, if Sweden wins their next 2 games, they will go through, its even possible for sweden to proceed with a win and a draw taking 4 points
10:41 June 12, 2012 by robban70226
embarrasing embarrasing embarrasing embarrasing, shame shame shame!!!
10:58 June 12, 2012 by kirub
The first half was disappointingly chaotic in the Sweden squad. But later, much later had improved. At times it looked as if their 'luck' would change, but no such luck. And yet they definitely have something going there, if they could find what exactly it is that drives them to try harder or slow down this drive.
11:04 June 12, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
So many 'Job's comforters' on here! Still all to play for

The problem for Sweden was not that they played particularly badly - it was more that Shevchenko was 'inspired' and helped to galvanize tremendous support among the Ukrainian fans.

Ibrahimovic never stopped trying: I thought the Swedish goalkeeper should have organised the defence better when Ukraine got their second goal - how could he have seen what was happening with so many guys in his way?

A good game of football
11:15 June 12, 2012 by StockholmSam
I don't recall whether it was the first or second Ukraine goal, but it was three Ukraine attackers against eight Swedish defenders. How does that even happen at the international level? Sweden plays like a deer in headlights...scared and hesitant.
11:31 June 12, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
...could be the effect of playing a host country, in front of a 'partisan' crowd which may even be worth an extra player

As Twiceshy suggests, a 1-0 lead isn't really a 'safe lead' - Sweden had too many defenders back and it proved counter-productive.
11:50 June 12, 2012 by Jes
Sweden should have sent Loreen instead . It is not too late to end this silly Zlatan project . It is not working .
13:36 June 12, 2012 by ltch65
To be honest, on last nights peformance, I would be surprised if Sweden went through. France and England are stronger sides technically and Ukraine (and only them....) are playing with a bit of passion...

But it is stil wide open. Sweden has to pull something out of the bag to beat England on Friday and be a bit less defensive and have a bit more balls playing up front.

Staking all your hopes on one player in Ibrahimovic is a risky strategy. BUt Sweden probably was a bit unlucky not to get a draw.
15:41 June 12, 2012 by Migga
@ StockholmSam

It was the first goal. Schevchenko was alone in the box with six (!) swedish players and Mellberg got caught on his heels. The swedish backline is horrible.
15:42 June 14, 2012 by euro2012tickets
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12:47 June 15, 2012 by euro_tix
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