Zlatan Ibrahimović was left to reflect on "payback" as Sweden bowed out of UEFA EURO 2012 in considerable style with a fine win against France in Kyiv – their captain setting them on their way with a memorable goal.
Erik Hamrén's side knew they would finish fourth in Group D regardless of the result at the Olympic Stadium, but nevertheless produced a performance full of vim and vigour that got its reward when Ibrahimović showed splendid flexibility to volley in Sebastian Larsson's 54th-minute cross.
"We had many good attacks," he said, before describing his goal. "I tried to get up as much as possible, with the team behind me, and I got a perfect pass from Seb. It's similar to my goal against Iceland [in a warm-up friendly], but then I shot with my left foot and this time it with my right, and it went in.
"The whole team played fantastically, a nice finish considering the two games we've had," Ibrahimović added. "We played as well today as maybe in the first half against Ukraine, maybe less well, but today we got the reward for all that we've done."
Sweden had played all three games in Kyiv and let advantages slip against both the co-hosts, when they went down 2-1, and England, where they fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1 only to ultimately go down 3-2. Ibrahimović, however, said there had been no cause for concern even though the clinching second goal did not arrive until Larsson thumped in in added time.
"No, I don't think [we were worried]," the forward said. "The team did a good job. We believed [we would win], believed in each other, helped each other and communicated well. When we won the ball we kept it. Everyone did a great job, there is nothing to complain about today."
Olof Mellberg had suggested before the tournament that the finals would be his last major tournament, and Ibrahimović paid tribute to the efforts of the central defender, who won his 117th cap against France. "He has meant a great deal to me, it is a shame he is quitting," he said. "He is one of my closer friends, a fantastic person and a fantastic footballer. He has had a great tournament and if he decides to quit he is leaving in the best possible way, by playing as he always does – at the top."
Ibrahimović also produced a top-class performance – one that won him the Carlsberg Man of the Match award as chosen by EURO Legend Davor Šuker – which he dedicated to Sweden's travelling support, with 18,000 fans having spent the past couple of weeks in Ukraine supporting the Blågult.
"Fantastic – [they] were one of the big reasons we wanted to win," was the Sweden captain's verdict. "The supporters, we knew there would be many today, and they haven't travelled here for nothing, so we felt we wanted to create a great ending for them." Ibrahimović and his team-mates certainly achieved that.
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