Late defeat against Belgium puts Sweden out of Euros

Sweden crashed out of Euro 2016 with a 1-0 defeat Wednesday against solid Belgium in Nice, on a handsome late goal from Radja Nainggolan.

"It was a really tough match because they played with two up top and their wide men also came up in support, so it was really difficult, but we managed to create a lot of chances," Nainggolan said.

"We only got the one goal. Perhaps we could have taken our chances a little better."

It was a sad end to the international career of Sweden's veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a goal disallowed for a foul on Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Ibrahimovic, 34, made 115 appearances and 62 goals for Sweden, though he never managed to shine at Euro and World Cup final tournaments.

Sweden, who needed to win to finish in third place, finished bottom of Group E with just one point while Belgium finished second with six.

In the round of 16 Belgium will face Hungary.

Italy, who suffered a late 1-0 defeat against third-place Republic of Ireland, finished top with six points due to their 2-0 debut game defeat of Belgium.

Italy will face holders Spain in the round of 16, in a rematch of the 2012 final in which the Italians crashed 4-0.

Needing only a draw to seal second place, Belgium played without much energy or urgency. Sweden, meanwhile, distinctly lacked imagination and penetration in attack.

They showed more enthusiasm and determination than the Belgians but - with Ibrahimovic looking old and frustrated - rarely seemed capable of breaking down a Belgian defence well marshalled by Vermaelen.

The game seemed to have 0-0 written all over it, until Nainggolan broke the deadlock just five minutes from time with a powerful drive to a centre from Eden Hazard, which took Sweden's veteran keeper Andreas Isaksson by surprise.

"Our objective was to qualify, and that is what we have done. It was a difficult match. ... Nainggolan scored an important goal and from then on we had to manage the game," said the elegant Hazard, who was voted man-of-the-match.

"Now we have to turn our attention to Hungary, who will all be tough. We saw the last minutes of their game against Portugal. They give 200 per cent and have very good players. We need another good performance to qualify for the quarter-finals."

Hazard paid tribute to Ibrahimovic: "He will remain a great champion and still has a lot to offer at club level. Zlatan has done a lot of important things in his career and would have wanted to go further here."

Sweden have done as poorly at Euro 2016 as they did in 2012, when they failed to qualify for the round of 16. Meanwhile, Belgium are on course to do as well as at the 2014 World Cup, when they managed to reach the quarter-finals.

Sweden coach Erik Hamren said: "I'm very disappointed. We were talking before the game about the honour of representing Sweden and of being here, but I couldn't have asked for much more from my players. I'm proud of them, even though we lost."

Last update: Thu, 23/06/2016 - 00:03

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