Carlsberg Man of the Match Olof Mellberg could scarcely hide his disappointment after Sweden bowed out of UEFA EURO 2012 with defeat by England in a thrilling contest in Kyiv.
The centre-back, a familiar figure in English football having made 232 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa FC during a seven-year spell that ended in 2008, played a pivotal role as Sweden fought back from 1-0 down and looked to have revived their Group D hopes. First his shot was pushed out by Joe Hart and against Glen Johnson for a 49th-minute equaliser, then ten minutes later he rose at the far post to head Sweden in front.
Those interventions were enough to earn Mellberg the award from EURO legend Christian Karembeu, but they were insufficient for Sweden to stay in the competition. Theo Walcott equalised before, with 12 minutes left, Danny Welbeck scored the goal that ended Swedish hopes and left Mellberg "feeling sad, especially with the way we went out. I felt we deserved more."
Sweden also lost the lead in their first match, a 2-1 defeat against co-hosts Ukraine on Monday, and though the match against England produced an improved performance, the result remained the same. "We did better compared to the first game against Ukraine but conceding five goals in two games is too many," Mellberg said. "We didn't give away too many chances and you can't afford that obviously so we're very disappointed. They were some really cheap goals, especially the second one."
Mellberg's display was hailed by Karembeu, who said: "He defended very well and [had a hand in] two goals and that was enough for him to be the man of the match." For the 34-year-old however, the emotions were decidedly mixed: "It feels a little bit strange to win an award and go out of the tournament. It's difficult to get over this disappointment. After the first game I was mostly angry, but now the disappointment comes as well and now it's over."
The turning point was Walcott's 64th-minute goal that made it 2-2 after Sweden had started the second half strongly. "It felt like we had pretty good control during the entire game really, even if we didn't create much in the first half, and we felt like we'd turned it around there and wouldn't let it go," Mellberg said. "Then we conceded an extremely cheap goal to make it 2-2, which didn't even feel like half a chance, and the third goal was really bad luck too. It was very tough."
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