Hatem Ben Arfa

By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter

 

United forward Hatem Ben Arfa was handed a starting role for France as they went down 2-0 against Sweden on Tuesday night, but Les Bleus still progressed to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.

Ben Arfa, who was a key player for Newcastle in the second half of the season and their subsequent fifth-placed Premier League finish, played on the right flank, earning his 13th international cap in the process.

The French had aspirations of topping Group D, but second half strikes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson sealed victory for Sweden in Kiev, and meant they had to be content with second place.

There was no place in the starting line-up for fellow Magpie Yohan Cabaye, who had been included in their previous two group games, and France were restricted to long range efforts throughout, one of which came from Ben Arfa but flew over the top.

The 25-year-old was replaced just before the hour mark by Chelsea wide man Florent Malouda.

France now have to contend with the reigning World Cup and European Championship winners Spain on Saturday night (7.45pm kick-off) in the next phase of the competition.

Meanwhile, in the other Group D fixture, former Newcastle trio Scott Parker, James Milner and Andy Carroll all played key roles in England's 1-0 win over Ukraine, which saw them top the group.

Parker and Milner both started in midfield for Roy Hodgson's side, while Carroll was a late substitute for Danny Welbeck. Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney headed the only goal of the game early in the second half.

England now face Italy in the quarter-finals on Sunday evening (7.45pm kick-off).

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