Euro 2008 – Sweden down sorry Greece
A stunning goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic set Sweden on their way to a 2-0 victory over defending champions Greece in their Euro 2008 Group D opening game at the Wals-Siezenheim Stadium in Salzburg.
A header from Ibrahimovic and a skidding long-range effort from Greek captain Angelos Basinas were the nearest either side came to breaking the deadlock in a dreary first half.
The quality of the play was little better in the second, until Ibrahimovic drove a glorious right-footed effort into the top-left corner from the edge of the Greek area with just over 20 minutes to play.
A scrappy close-range effort from Sweden defender Petter Hansson shortly afterwards made sure of a victory which puts Lars Lagerback’s side level on points with Spain at the top of Group D, after the Spaniards’ 4-1 dismantling of Russia earlier in the day.
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel – architect of their famous 2004 triumph – opted for a 5-3-2 formation that was defensive even by his own conservative standards, but it succeeded in frustrating Sweden’s forwards, who were quick to complain about the perceived rough-house tactics of their opponents.
Angelos Charisteas crafted the game’s first opportunity when he twisted past a couple of yellow-shirted defenders before firing tamely at Andreas Isaksson, before Sweden upped the tempo and began to dictate the game.
Anders Svensson flashed a volley over the crossbar from distance, before Ibrahimovic flicked Freddie Ljungberg’s inswinging cross inches over the crossbar with Greece goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis stranded.
Charisteas tested Isaksson again with a rising shot from the Greek right and Basinas then drew an even better save from the Swedish number one with a 25-yarder that bounced right in front of goal, but on the whole there was a discreditable lack of ambition to the Greek play.
Christian Wilhelmsson lofted a right-footed lob over the Greek crossbar after three minutes of the second period, before Hansson almost gifted Greece the lead with a header that went inches wide of his own left-hand post from Traianos Dellas‘s right-wing cross.
A dismal game was crying out for a moment of inspiration, and on 67 minutes Ibrahimovic provided it, playing a one-two with Larsson before thundering a rising shot past the despairing lunge of Nikopolidis.
Hansson made it two shortly afterwards when he nudged the ball home via his knee from close range after Ljungberg had seen a shot saved by Nikopolidis and substitute Johan Elmander had poked the rebound into the air.