France qualifies for Euro 2012 quarterfinals despite an embarrassing defeat to Sweden
The national football team of France is no stranger to embarrassing exit from major football championships. The woeful performance of France during FIFA 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 are an ode to the embarrassment Les Bleus have endured on the international scale.
France finally ended their embarrassing run at international events by qualifying for the quarterfinal stage of Euro 2012. France broke their habit of making first-round exits, although they did face an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sweden on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, the defeat was something France had prepared for. A victory against Sweden meant France would have topped their Group, which ultimately meant playing against the 2010 World Cup winners Spain.
Therefore, a sublime strike from Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike and a late goal from Sebastian Larsson helped France finish second in Group D. England and finished second in Group D (just behind first-placed England).
“We were prepared for tough game,” France coach Laurent Blanc told reporters in an interview after the game. “We didn't expect it to be so difficult. We were not strong enough in the tackles. I think Sweden played with lot of heart they gave everything, physically much better than us.”
“In their ranks have a player could can make a difference in a game," Blanc added. "If we analyze the game I think we struggled throughout.”
France had to sacrifice their 23-match unbeaten run to avoid an early exit from Euro 2012. However, there is more reason to be worried for. France defeat to Sweden looked more real than analysts are portraying it.
The central defense looked very shaky, which also forced captain Hugo Lloris to make a couple of brilliant saves. The goalkeeper of France was in stunning form once again. Had Hugo Lloris been benched France would have most certainly scored a couple of more goals.
Philippe Mexes was at his best again and by that I mean best at making himself look bad. The 30-year-old AC Milan defender recorded a night to forget. Luckily Laurent Blanc has an excuse to test a new defender as Philippe Mexes will be serving a suspension in the quarterfinal.
Laurent Blanc understands that a defeat to Sweden must have hit the morale in the French camp. Nonetheless, Laurent Blanc wants his men to stay “optimistic” and to avoid another implosion in the quarterfinals.
“We are disappointed of course, we wanted a different result, but the most important thing is we qualified for the quarter-finals. Even though Sweden played well, they are going home tomorrow,” Laurent Blanc said.
“We need to stay optimistic, we didn't make things easy for ourselves. It is not the easiest thing to play Spain at the moment, we have to be rested and need a really good performance to beat them.
“But we are going to focus and are going to fight. Tomorrow will be more optimistic than tonight and I hope by Saturday we will be at a higher level.”