Euro 2016 round up: Sweden 0 Belgium 1 - and what the result means

Belgium players celebrate after Radja Nainggolan (not pictured) scored the 1-0 goal.
Belgium players celebrate after Radja Nainggolan (not pictured) scored the 1-0 goal.PHOTO: EPA

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden career is over. Belgium's Euro 2016 journey continues.

Marc Wilmot's men secured second place in Group E following Radja Nainggolan's late strike at the Stade de Nice.

With a swing of the Roma man's right boot, Nainggolan sent Ibrahimovic into international retirement.

Sweden's record scorer with 62 goals had announced that he would bow out after the continental showpiece. The outspoken 34-year-old striker also once famously said: "I can play in the 11 positions because a good player can play anywhere on the pitch."

The problem, however, is there cannot be 11 of him in a team. He must have wished he was at the end of Sweden's best chances.

 
 
 
 

Marcus Berg failed to score from close range inside five minutes. And when Ibrahimovic's defence-splitting pass sent Berg through on the right in the 53rd minute, the forward's touch let him down and he was forced wide. A superb chance for Sweden turned into a low shot from Albin Ekdal that was inhaled by Thibaut Courtois.

Ibrahimovic often had to drop deep to get the ball, and managed just one shot on target at Euro 2016. His 75th-minute free kick from 30 yards on Wednesday, however, was saved by Courtois.

It was a night of frustration for him in Nice, his furrowed brow in stark contrast to the Belgium smiles.

Despite losing their opener to Italy, Belgium have suddenly found themselves in an ideal position - in the top-light half of the Euro 2016 draw. They next face surprise Group F winners Hungary, with their sights set on going on the way.

Match highlights

- In the fifth minute, Sweden register their first shot on target at Euro 2016. Sebastian Larsson's free kick from over 40 yards out fell to Berg in the box. From a central position about six yards out, Berg struck a powerful shot at Courtois, who pulled off a reflex save.

- In the 45th minte, Kevin de Bruyne delivered a peach of a cross to the far post, but despite plenty of bodies in the box, no one touched it. That was the Manchester City star's third cross into the six-yard box that took out the Swedish defence, following efforts in the 29th and 35th minutes. The first two were low crosses for Romelu Lukaku, who failed to anticipate - and attack - the ball.

- In the 66th mintue, Belgium counter-attacked. After a surging run, de Bruyne shot from long range. Andreas Isaksson turned it away for a corner. Nothing came of the set-piece.

- In the 73rd minute, Lukaku only had the keeper to beat, but Isaksson saved. Seconds later, Lukaku found himself in a one-on-one situation again. He put the ball into the back of the net but his effort was correctly ruled out. The striker was ahead of the Sweden backline on the half-way line.

- Ten minutes later, Sweden have a corner. Emil Forsberg's cross was headed by Andreas Granqvist but de Bruyne headed off the line.

- In the 84th minute, Eden Hazard, on the left flank, sent the ball across the box. It reached Nainggolan and his strike from 25 yards out arrowed into the corner.

- In stoppage time, substitute Christian Benteke's shot was palmed away by Isaksson.

The talking point

What is next for Sweden? Ibrahimovic's international retirement marks the end of an era for the Swedes. For years, he has been their talisman, to the extent that Sweden have been the most one-man of one-man teams. The same "one-man team" label is tagged on Gareth Bale and Wales as well as Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, but they do have a supporting cast. When Ibrahimovic has a poor game, Sweden really struggle.

Yet Sweden have seen key players retire in recent years - midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg in 2008, striker Henrik Larsson in 2009, and defender Olof Mellberg in 2012. The old will always make way for the new and Sweden can take heart from the fact that they are the reigning Under-21 European champions.

Man of the Match

De Bruyne. The midfielder came into Wednesday's game having been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 games for his country, with five goals and five assists. He deserved another assist in Nice, but Lukaku was not on his wavelength. De Bruyne's deliveries were excellent, and he provided an attacking outlet throughout, particularly on the break. He was also crucial at the back, making a game-changing clearance off the line.

What the result means

Sweden have been eliminated. Belgium have cemented second place in Group E and will face Hungary for a place in the quarter-finals.

Finishing second in the group has been a blessing in disguise for the Red Devils, at least on paper. They have ended up in the top-half, where there are no former World Cup or Euro champions. In contrast, group winners Italy are in a bottom-heavy draw. Italy, hosts France, Germany, Spain and England have 20 major titles between them - 11 World Cups and nine European Championships.

Key statistic

Ibrahimovic had fewer shots on target at Euro 2016 than goals scored at the three previous editions. He scored two goals each at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Euros.

What they said

Hazard: "It was a difficult match, complicated for our defenders. In the first half we had some possession and created chances. Nainggolan scored an important goal and from then on we had to manage the game."