Sweden give holders reality check
Holders Greece already have a fight on their hands to maintain their grip on the trophy they won so memorably four years ago after second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Petter Hansson gave Sweden all three points in their opening Group D match in Salzburg.
On the back foot
Otto Rehhagel's side were always on the back foot as they relied on the tactics that had served them so well in Portugal, defending deeply and looking for opportunities to threaten on the counterattack. For all their territorial dominance, however, Sweden were unable to pick a way through a characteristically displined Greece defence, until a moment of inspiration from Ibrahimović who – with his first international goal since October 2005 –
broke the deadlock in the 67th minute. Hansson added a second five minutes later to leave Greece with plenty to ponder before Saturday's meeting with Russia.
Sweden coach Lars Lagerbäck had warned repeatedly in the build-up of the danger posed by Greece from set-pieces, yet within three minutes his own team had proved they were not to be underestimated in that department either – Hansson heading across goal from a right-wing corner. Ibrahimović and Fredrik Ljungberg, back after knee and rib injuries respectively, then nearly combined to good effect before Anders Svensson thumped a first-time left-foot volley just past the post from 25 metres.
Having again reversed his decision to retire from national-team football for this tournament, Henrik Larsson produced an unusually quiet opening half-hour, but burst into life by unselfishly passing up two shooting opportunities by trying to find Ibrahimović. On each occasion the menace was snuffed out, although the FC Internazionale Milano forward then landed an improvised header on the roof of Antonis Nikopolidis's net. Greece had barely threatened their opponents' goal with the notable exception of a fine early run past three defenders from the 2004 final match-winner, Angelos Charisteas. His burst ended disappointingly with a low shot straight at Andreas Isaksson, who then reacted smartly to keep out an Angelos Basinas effort from distance on the stroke of half-time.
Greeks sit back
The pattern remained much the same in the second period, with Greece largely content to sit back and soak up pressure. That plan might have come undone within three minutes of the restart, Niclas Alexandersson lifting a pass over the defence for Christian Wilhelmsson on the right after Greece had half-cleared a corner. The midfielder beat Nikopolidis to the ball but his shot was too high. While happy to let their opponents make the running, the set-piece delivery of Greece's Giorgos Karagounis prompted several uncomfortable moments and the midfielder wasted a presentable opening himself just past the hour, twice firing straight at defenders with Sweden exposed.
There was soon more discomfort for the Scandinavians as Hansson inadvertently headed a Traianos Dellas cross just past his own post – yet within seconds Sweden were ahead. Ibrahimović, without a goal for his country in his 13 previous games, exchanged passes with Larsson and thumped an unstoppable drive beyond Nikopolidis from the edge of the box. That was the first time Greece's defence had been breached in 425 minutes of EURO finals action but they soon conceded a messy second. Nikopolidis saved from Ljungberg but the ball looped into the air for Hansson to scramble it in at the far post. Sweden were always in control thereafter, although the night ended on a note of concern as Wilhelmsson limped off with a heavily strapped left thigh.