A resurgent France take on a downcast Sweden in a group D match on 19 June, 2012 at the Olympic stadium in Kiev. Sweden, already out of the competition after suffering two losses, have nothing to play for but pride as they look to score their first point. From the Les Blues perspective, they would be aiming to seal this game and hope to finish on top of the group to avoid a possible quarter-final clash with the reigning European champions Spain.
France have established their credentials as genuine title-contenders, after many had written them off following their inglorious first round exit in the world cup two years ago. After being denied a victory by a resolute England, France scored a comprehensive 2-0 victory against co-hosts Ukraine. Two quick second half goals by Menez and Cabaye put the game beyond the reach of Oleh Blokhin’s troops and propelled the Blues to the top spot.
Sweden’s slim hopes of qualification were dashed by Danny Welbeck, who scored for England with just 12 minutes to go. The Scandinavian team played a positive game early on against the Three Lions. The team took a slim 2-1 lead but only flattered to deceive as Walcott’s delightful long-range shot and Welbeck’s superb back-heeled winner shut the door for them.
A win or draw would surely take France to the last eight. However, the score-line and the outcome of the England- Ukraine clash would determine whether they finish first or second in the group. Even if they suffer a narrow loss, they could still sneak in to the quarters, given that they have the highest goal difference in the group. The only way the Blues can be eliminated is if they suffer a huge defeat at the hands of Sweden and Ukraine manage to defeat England. Both the results seem unlikely and one can safely say that Blanc’s team already have one foot in the quarters.
Yvann M’Vila, who missed France’s first two games due to injury, looks fit and ready to start against Sweden. Cabaye has a 50-50 chance of recovering from a knock and could be replaced by Malouda in the midfield.For Sweden, Mikael Lustig still remains sidelined with a hip injury.
France’s probable lineup (4-5-1): Lloris, Evra, Mexes, Rami, Debuchy, Ribery, Menez, M’Vila, Malouda, Nasri, Benzema.
Sweden’s probable eleven (4-4-1-1): Isaksson, Lustig, Granqvist, Mellberg, M Olsson, Svensson, Elm, Wilhelmsson, Kallstrom, Ibrahimovic, Elmander.
The Frenchmen haven’t tasted defeat in their last 22 games and look well poised to extend their streak. They have an enviable record against Sweden; their last loss to the Swedes came more than 40 years ago. Sweden, heavily reliant on Ibrahimovic in the attack, face an onerous task of trying to score against a solid French defence.
France 2 Sweden 0
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Gokul is a software professional from Chennai, India. An avid sports fan, he is a keen follower of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis and Formula One. He styles his articles as razor-edge analyses of all the hot and happening events in the field of sports.