Zlatan rocket stuns champs

Sweden open their account with a win

Reigning champions Greece were brought crashing back to earth with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sweden.

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic thunderbolt put Lars Lagerback's men on their way after 67 minutes, before Petter Hansson sealed the points when he bundled home a second.

A largely forgettable opening 45 minutes produced little in terms of goal-mouth activity as both sides displayed an alarming lack of ambition.

Goalkeepers were made largely redundant, with wayward shooting and a lack of creative spark ensuring clean sheets all round at the break.

The second period was marginally better, with Ibrahimovic's spectacular opener raising the standard to a previously unseen level.

The Internazionale man exchanged a smart one-two with the ever-reliable Henrik Larsson on the edge of the area before unleashing an unstoppable drive past a flailing Antonis Nikopolidis.

Five minutes later the result was put beyond doubt when centre-half Hansson scored the scrappiest goal of the tournament so far, and arguably of all time.

Freddie Ljungberg's initial shot was saved by the Greek keeper, before an unfortunate ricochet allowed the unlikeliest of scorers to bundle the ball in at the far post.

Neither side created much during the closing stages, as the yellow army in Salzburg prepared their celebration party.


Having built their 2004 success on solid foundations Greece were never likely to waver from that tactic this time around.

Angelos Charisteas did have the first effort on goal, weaving around three Sweden defenders as he cut in from the right flank - but his shot was straight at Manchester City goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and Otto Rehhagel's men rarely threatened thereafter.

Ibrahimovic was passed fit following knee troubles with Internazionale at the end of the season, and he almost ended his dismal two-and-a-half year wait for an international goal in the 33rd minute.

He was found by Ljungberg with his back to goal and he headed on to the roof of the net as Sotiris Kyrgiakos clattered him.

In the next move, Olof Mellberg had to head a dangerous cross over his own goal following Giourkas Seitaridis' ball from the right.

Then Angelos Basinas tried his luck from 30 yards just before the break and Isaksson was down to parry the awkward shot - but the efforts at the end of the opening period could not disguise a half short on entertainment.

It frustrated Greece coach Rehhagel, who was gesturing in his lively way on the bench, urging his players to get tighter to the Swedes.


It was too tight for Ibrahimovic's liking, though, as he took an eye-watering kick between the legs from Giorgos Karagounis but was able to carry on.

Sweden should have had the lead three minutes after the restart when Christian Wilhelmsson latched onto a ball over the top of Greece's defence. He lobbed Antonis Nikopolidis but also cleared the crossbar.

Mellberg almost gifted Greece an opening when he played the ball blindly out of defence, allowing Karagounis a run at Sweden's defence. Mellberg was back just in time with his team-mates to scramble away.

With the game settling into a pattern the Greeks were content with, then came Ibrahimovic's moment of inspiration, his own masterpiece in the city of Mozart's birth.

Receiving a throw from the right flank he fed Larsson, who returned the ball to the edge of the area allowing him to unleash a 25-yard screamer without breaking stride.

Hansson's goal was less pleasing on the eye. Ljungberg raced through but had his finish saved, with substitute Johan Elmander poking the ball to the back post where Hansson applied the ugly finish.

Hope for Greece comes from four years ago, when they reached the quarter-finals with four points. Spain and Russia await this time.