Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and Andreas Isaksson have all retired from international football in the aftermath of Sweden's Euro 2016 exit.  (Credit: Al Robinson)

Euro 2016 Report: Sweden 0 - 1 Belgium
Published: June 24, 2016
Sweden's 1-0 defeat to Belgium in Nice brought the curtain down on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's international career after 62 goals in 116 games.
 
Ibrahimovic declared before the start of Euro 2016 that “the legend can still deliver.” However, the 34 year old striker – linked with a move to Manchester United since leaving Paris St-Germain at the end of last season – failed to stamp his usual authority in France, failing to score, though he did create Sweden's solitary goal against the Republic of Ireland.
 
While Ibrahimovic's retirement will garner the majority of the headlines, it was also the end of the line at this level for midfielder Kim Kallstrom and goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, with the latter performing heroics throughout the Belgium game to give his side hope of pulling off a shock victory. In the end, it would take something special to beat him.
 
Had fans in the stadium and at home been told the game would produce one magic moment, most would have backed Ibra to conjure it. 
 
Instead, it was Radja Nainggolan's 84th minute wonder strike which lit up the Stade de Nice and ensured a second place finish for the Belgians. Coupled with Robbie Brady's header 60 seconds later in Group E's other game, Ireland against Italy, that finished the Swedes in France and the international careers of Kallstrom, Isaksson and, of course, Zlatan.
 
It could have been quite different, of course, even up until one minute before Belgium scored. Andreas Granqvist looked to have broken the deadlock when he powered a header goalwards and beyond Thibaut Courtois, but Kevin de Bruyne had stationed himself on the line and dutifully headed clear.
 
Isaksson had denied de Bruyne, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku (more than once) by the time heartbreak arrived with just six minutes left on the clock – and there was nothing the Kasimpasa 'keeper could have done to prevent it. 
 
Eden Hazard beat his man on the left-flank and reached the byline, but then cut the ball back all the way across and outside of the box to Nainggolan who was one of three Belgian players queuing up on the edge. The Roma midfielder steadied himself before firing a perfect strike from range across the flying Isaksson to end the Swedish resistance. 
 
Ibrahimovic had a couple of half-chances during the match and there would be one last moment for him in the 86th minute. He chested a cross into the box and volleyed goalwards, but it flew just wide of Courtois's post. Failure to score here meant that Zlatan's Sweden career ended without a goal in his last five internationals, his longest barren run for his country.
 
Then, Hazard nearly made it crueller for the Swedes in stoppage time, but once again, almost in defiance to the last flickering light of his own international career, Isaksson denied him. To no avail.
 
 
Sweden: Andreas Isaksson; Victor Lindelof, Erik Johansson, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson; Sebastian Larsson (Jimmy Durmaz, 70), Albin Ekdal, Kim Kallstrom, Emil Forsberg (Erkan Zengin, 82); Marcus Berg (John Guidetti, 63), Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Robin Olsen (GK), Patrik Carlgren (GK), Albin Ekdal, Pontus Jansson, Oscar Hiljemark, Pontus Welbloom, Ludwig Augustinsson, Emir Kujovic, Mikael Lustig, Oscar Lewicki.
Booked: A Ekdal (33), E Johansson (36).
 
 
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Thomas Meunier, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen; Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (Dries Mertens, 71), Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard (Divock Origi, 90+3); Kevin de Bruyne; Romelu Lukaku (Christian Benteke, 87).
Subs not used: Jean-François Gillet (GK), Simon Mignolet (GK), Jason Denayer, Mousa Dembélé, Michy Batshuayi, Christian Kabasele, Jordan Lukaku, Laurent Ciman, Marouane Fellaini.
Bookings: T Meunier (30), A Witsel (45+1).
 
 
Referee: Felix Brych (GER).
Attendance: 35,000.
Extratime Man of the Match: Andreas Isaksson (Sweden).

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Fran Reilly

Fran Reilly joined Extratime.ie in February 2015 having previously written for the Drogheda/Fingal Independents, loi19.com and the Cork City matchday programme. Though only part of the ET family for a relatively short time, the Donaghmede native has already had the opportunity to cover League of Ireland clubs both domestically and in Europe, as well as Republic of Ireland internationals. He can count Martin O'Neill, Roy Keane and Dutch footballing legend Ruud Gullit amongst those he has come face-to-face with during his line of ET work. He still hopes to someday meet Henrik Larsson.

Fran was once sent to watch Lionel Messi play in the Aviva Stadium for Barcelona but left feeling underwhelmed as his performance fell some way short of replicating Wes Hoolahan's against Deportivo la Coruna in August 2004. That famous night was enough to make Fran a Shels fan and he even pulled on the red shirt himself once for Owen Heary's tribute match in November 2013. Hilariously, he saw a penalty saved by unforgiving goalkeeper Lee Murphy, then at Bohemians.

His one day spell as a member of the Extratime media six-a-side panel fared no better, his status as a reporter coming under threat following a string of less than inspirational performances. However, he convinced the ET hierarchy to persevere with him so he lingers on, covering whatever clubs he can reach by public transport. You can follow Fran on Twitter (@FranTomReilly) where he spends most of his time retweeting other people's LOI views and news and claiming them as his own.

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