Sweden exits Euro 2012 after wasting lead again

For the second time at the European Championship, Sweden held a

second-half lead and seemed to have the game under control.

And for the second time, the normally so-solid Swedes allowed

two quick goals to let the match – and the tournament – slip

away.

Sweden was eliminated from Euro 2012 on Friday after a 3-2 loss

to England, and will leave Kiev with a feeling that they got zero

points from two games they could have won.

”We allowed a couple of extremely cheap goals, especially the

second one,” said veteran defender Olof Mellberg, whose team lost

2-1 to Ukraine in the opening round. ”We conceded five goals in

two games, that’s too many. It didn’t feel like we allowed too many

chances, but they still scored five goals.”

Three of those came in the air, including both of Andriy

Shevchenko’s headers for Ukraine and Andy Carroll’s opener for

England.

Mellberg was beaten by both Shevchenko and Carroll for two of

the goals, but made up for it by creating both of Sweden’s scores

against England – first forcing an own-goal from Glen Johnson and

then heading in a free kick.

But the Swedish defense couldn’t close the deal this time

either. Theo Walcott equalized with a long-range shot and then set

up Danny Welbeck for the winner.

Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic was held scoreless for the first time

in five internationals but drew a couple of good saves from Joe

Hart and set up Mellberg for the shot that led to Sweden’s first

goal.

But Ibrahimovic and his teammates still thought they proved a

point against England by putting in a much-improved performance

from the game against Ukraine, dominating possession for stretches

of the game.

”I thought we were a much better team than them,” Ibrahimovic

said. ”We’ve taken the lead in two games now after 60 minutes and

then lost it. … But today we played exactly the way we want to

play.”

Sweden will face France in its final group game with nothing to

play for but pride – certainly not what the 18,000 Swedish

supporters who traveled to Kiev had hoped for.

This was supposed to be an opportunity for Sweden to showcase

its new attack-minded philosophy brought in by coach Erik Hamren in

his first major tournament, but instead it raised questions about

whether the team had strayed too far from the defensive tactics

that had been its hallmark in the past.

But Hamren said he was sticking by his strategy.

”I am really proud of the players,” Hamren said. ”We showed

the mentality, the attitude I wanted to see and we had the courage

to play our way of playing. But to win games you need also a little

bit of luck.”

And the ability to protect leads.