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Sports

Ibrahimovic Goal Sweeps Sweden Past Greece in Group D

In a match that had viewers dozing off in front of their TV sets, the Swedes downed reigning European champions Greece, 2-0. The Greeks played their typical conservative game -- this time it didn't work.

Ibrahimovic scores first goal

Ibrahimovic had the only inspiration in the match

The Greeks under German coach Otto Rehhagel won Euro 2004 by disrupting opponents' play and waiting for mistakes, and that was exactly the way they started their 2008 campaign.

Spectators in Salzburg's Wals-Siezenheim Stadium were already booing after ten minutes, as it became clear just how much of a slog this match would be.

The lone highlight of the first half came in the 34th minute, when Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic head narrowly over the crossbar with his back to the goal.

The second half initially brought little improvement -- with the Greeks almost taking an undeserved lead in the 66th minute after Swedish defender Petter Hansson nearly headed an ill-advised clearance into his own goal.

Six decisive minutes

Sad Greek fan

Greece gave their supporters no reason to cheer

But one minute later, with a goalless draw looking inevitable, Sweden had a moment of inspiration. Ibrahimovich used a combination with strike partner Henrik Larsson to open up space around 16 meters from goal, and he fired a rocket into the upper right-hand corner of the net.

It was Sweden's first shot on goal in the entire match -- and simultaneously the game winner.

Greece, who had not conceded a goal in the European Championship for more than 420 minutes, were forced to emerge from their defensive shell, but they failed to create any clear chances.

Instead, in the 72nd minute, Larsson maneuvered himself into a 1-on-1 situation against Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis.

Sweden's Petter Hansson, second from left, scores

Sweden's second goal was a bit of football slapstick

Larsson's shot was dismal, but the Greeks failed to clear the ball, and Hansson, who had almost been the goat of the match six minutes earlier, got just enough leg on it to complete the scoring.

"We do want to score goals as well but the truth is we don't score many," said Rehhagel after the match in defense of his conservative tactics.

Sweden now face a far tougher test against Spain on Saturday, while the Greeks try to make up for their poor start against Russia.

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