France will “stay positive and prepare for what will be a great match” against Spain in the European Championship quarter-finals on Saturday, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has said.
Laurent Blanc’s side lost 2-0 in their final Group D game against Sweden, a match illuminated by a stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal. The result brought an end to their 23-game unbeaten run and meant they finished in second place behind England, who now face Italy.
Sweden had failed to pick up a point before Tuesday night’s game, losing to co-hosts Ukraine and then England, but turned in a vastly-improved display at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
Lloris admitted Les Bleus had been below their best, adding: “We were playing to win but, unfortunately, we could never find the right pass. I think Sweden deserved to win.
“A positive point is, of course, the fact that we have qualified, and we have to bear that in mind. We must remain positive and prepare for what will be a difficult quarter-final, a great match. We couldn't find the right solutions, but against Spain it will be completely different.”
He said the game against Vicente del Bosque’s side would “be a great test for us, where we will have to show what we can do” and called on his team-mates to make sure they ended the game, whatever the result, with “as few regrets as possible.”
Defender Gael Clichy praised Sweden’s performance, but said: “We have to acknowledge that we played poorly. We were a bit tired because of the heat and the fact that some players have taken part in three games in [nine] days, but that goes for every team.
“We could have done better defensively and been more creative offensively. But there's nothing to worry about. The end of our 23-game unbeaten run is not a big deal. It doesn't change what we've achieved over the past two years.”
France striker Olivier Giroud, in quotes reported by L’Equipe, admitted there had been “a rant” in the dressing room after the match. “It's weird to qualify after a defeat,” he said.
And fellow forward Karim Benzema warned: “If we want to do something in this Euro, we cannot reproduce this kind of game.”
The French media concluded that the defeat had taken the edge off the country’s qualification but - for the most part – looked forward to the challenge posed by Spain.
Le Parisien said: “Qualified, but they must show another face against Spain”, but Le Telegram huffed at “France without panache.”
For Sweden’s players, though, there was only frustration. After an excellent qualifying campaign in which their counter-attacking approach was rewarded with plenty of goals, they failed to find their rhythm.
Midfielder Kim Kallstrom said: “It was the first time we have managed to win in the tournament, which is a bit frustrating - but results don't lie. So we must now pack our bags and go home.
“Even if it was a very tough tournament for us in terms of the results, at least we had a very good finish to it.”
Meanwhile, French striker Louis Saha urged Blanc, who has been linked wth a move to Tottenham, to remain as the national team coach, telling TalkSport: “He’s a top manager. He'll always have interest.
“I can imagine him being in the Premier League because of his experience, but I want him to stay in the job for France because he has been doing a terrific job.”© ESPN