GLASGOW(Reuters) - Tournament fortunes often turn on individual moments of magic or folly and Sweden’s exit from the European Championship on Tuesday was down to the latter.
Just as the Netherlands authored their own demise against the Czech Republic when Matthijs de Ligt handled the ball in Budapest on Sunday, so Sweden bought their own early ticket home some 48 hours later.
The dismissal of Marcus Danielson nine minutes into extra time, for a studs-up, high challenge that might not have been malicious but still injured his opponent and was clearly a red-card offence, turned the game in favour of unconvincing opponents.
Yet, Ukraine will travel to Rome to meet England on Saturday while the more exciting and enterprising Swedes head home.
The game-changing tackle, which appeared to cause serious damage to the knee of Artem Besedin, who had been on the pitch for 10 minutes, could not have come at a worse time for the Swedes.
Having come from a goal down to equalise before halftime and then seen two efforts from goalscorer Emil Forsberg rattle the woodwork in the second half, they set about finishing off the opposition in extra time.
Coach Janne Andersson made three attacking changes two minutes before Danielson’s moment of madness, clearly signalling Sweden’s desire to finish off the contest before the possibility of penalties.
Yet suddenly down to 10 men, and having to replace the banished centre back, they abandoned their attacking plans and took the decision to hold out for a shootout.
They almost got there in a nervy rear-guard effort.
Ukraine were surprisingly timid in taking on a weakened opponent until Artem Dovbyk, who had just come on, headed home from close range right at the end.
One of the absurdities of tournament football is how far you can get without actually producing any convincing performances and Ukraine must rank among the weaker side ever to reach the last eight of the Euros.
They lost twice in the group phase, to both the Netherlands and Austria, and it was only a 2-1 win over rookies North Macedonia that provided them with a pass into the knockout stage.
But they are still in the competition and most certainly hoping there might be more moments that go their way.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)