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France pip Sweden to first place

Sweden 0-1 France
An early own goal in Netanya proved enough for France to beat their fellow WU19 EURO semi-finalists to first place in Group A.

Marie-Charlotte Léger celebrates France's opening goal
Marie-Charlotte Léger celebrates France's opening goal ©Sportsfile

An early own goal enough for France to pip Sweden to Group A first place
Sweden coach Calle Barrling happy with performance and his team's stamina
France's Gilles Eyquem admits "it was not a pretty match"
Semi-final lineup: France v Spain, Germany v Sweden (Friday)

France secured Group A first place with a narrow defeat of fellow WU19 EURO semi-finalists Sweden.

Both teams were already through to the last four and the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup before today after defeating Denmark and hosts Israel. But an early own goal means France will meet Group A runners-up Spain on Friday when Sweden must take on the team that finished first in that section, Germany.

In just the fifth minute Noémie Carage's free-kick was not cleared and Emelie Andersson managed to loop the ball in over her own goalkeeper. Sweden rallied to counteract the mistake, but France were buoyed, and created a string of chances.

Sakina Karchaoui's footwork was proving especially potent and from her long cross Léger's diving header was wide while Clara Mateo had her effort saved. In the 15th minutes, Sweden broke, as Tove Almqvist found herself one on one with Cindy Perrault but could not make contact with an overhead pass. Léger struck at a tight angle late in the first-half, but her shot was just wide of the far post, and Juliane Gathrat also came close.

Sweden got their shape together and stifled France as the game went on. Emma Jansson and substitute Lotta Ökvist battled to level, while captain Julia Ekholm's set-piece delivery looked dangerous late on.

Calle Barrling, Sweden coach
They had lots of speed, some excellent combinations and we were unlucky to go 1-0 down in the way that goal was scored, and we had to switch some positions, too. But after 20 minutes we slowed them down and by the last half an hour we were the stronger team. We were absolutely the better football team, and the stronger, in the last while of the game. It was really tough, but that's football nowadays. Sometimes you lose 1-0, sometimes you win 1-0 and they were a bit lucky in the opening minutes.

If we face France again [in the final], we'll know what we are capable of, I think we were their strongest opponents. We'll have a good chance. We have a lot of stamina, and especially in the end of games. That could be enough to win a semi-final, especially if a game goes to extra time. I don't know about other teams, but we have that.

Gilles Eyquem, France coach
It was not a pretty match for the spectators. It was tight, and unfortunate for Sweden to concede in that way but I think we worked extremely hard.

We knew we were semi-finalists before the game anyway so we didn't have anything to lose in that respect but I still asked for a strong performance in this last game. We've been very, very strong throughout this tournament and we will continue to be.