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France reign in Ukraine rain

By Kevin Darling, CNN
updated 4:46 PM EDT, Sat June 16, 2012
Jeremy Menez put France in front on 53 minutes and hosts Ukraine never recovered.
Jeremy Menez put France in front on 53 minutes and hosts Ukraine never recovered.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • France beat hosts Ukraine 2-0 in rain-lashed Euro 2012 clash
  • Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye on target after 58-minute delay due to storm
  • Danny Welbeck hits stunning winner as England edge Sweden 3-2
  • Swedes become the second team eliminated from tournament

(CNN) -- Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine were brought back down to earth after their opening match heroics as France clinched a 2-0 victory in stormy Donetsk.

Play in the Group D match was suspended for 58 minutes as spectacular torrential rain and forked lightning put the players' safety at risk.

When the teams returned to the field, the French made their superior technical ability count as clinical second-half strikes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye sealed a comfortable win.

In Group D's other game, England won a thrilling contest against Sweden to dump the Scandinavians out of the tournament.

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Young striker Danny Welbeck hit a brilliant winner 13 minutes from time after Sweden briefly led through Olof Mellberg's double strike.

Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott were also on target for England in the 3-2 triumph, their first ever competitive victory over the Swedes.

Ukraine 0-2 France

Group D favorites France proved too good for hosts Ukraine in a rain-affected Euro 2012 clash in Donetsk.

After a huge thunderstorm caused play to be suspended for almost an hour during the first half, Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye struck after the break to seal victory for Laurent Blanc's side.

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The game begun amid torrential rain and within five minutes of kick-off, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers ordered the teams off the field as thunder and treacherous forked lightning engulfed the Donbass Arena.

The continuation of the match looked in doubt as large puddles of water began to form on the pitch but 58 minutes later, the teams re-emerged to clearer skies.

Ukraine, despite the cacophonous roar from the crowd that greeted their every thrust forward, found it tough to cope with France's slicker passing and movement.

Home goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov was forced into a wonderful save with his feet to deny Menez, before batting away a Phillippe Mexes header.

Veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko, a two-goal hero in Ukraine's opening match against Sweden, again looked the hosts' most potent threat.

He saw one rasping strike palmed away by Hugo Lloris and then sent a thunderous long-range effort whistling inches over the bar shortly after the break.

But just as Ukraine were finding their rhythm, France swept up the field and broke the deadlock.

After some fine interplay between Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, Menez cut inside Yevhen Selin and drilled a shot in at the near post.

Three minutes later, Cabaye latched on to Benzema's pass and buried an effort past Pyatov from 15 yards.

The goals completely deflated the Ukrainians, who escaped going further behind when Cabaye blasted against the post after a mesmerizing spell of French possession.

The win stretches Le Bleus' unbeaten run to an imposing 23 games and it also made a bit of history.

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It is, incredibly, the first time they have won a European Championship match without either Zinedine Zidane or Michel Platini in their side.

England 3-2 Sweden

England striker Danny Welbeck's sumptuous late winner settled a topsy-turvy match as Sweden were sent crashing out of Euro 2012.

The Manchester United man's cheeky backheel sealed the points for England after Olof Mellberg's brace for Sweden had threatened to derail their more illustrious opponents.

It was a sweet, if nerve-jangling, victory for the English, for whom Sweden had become something of a bogey team in international tournaments.

But where England failed in Euro 1992 and the World Cups of 2002 and 2006, they succeeded in Kiev to put themselves in a strong position in Group D.

A point in their final pool match against Ukraine, in which the talismanic Wayne Rooney returns from suspension, will be enough to see England into the quarter-finals.

Roy Hodgson's side were on top in the first half and their pressure told when Steven Gerrard sent an inch-perfect cross into the box for Carroll to plant a trademark bullet header past Andreas Isaksson.

But Carroll's wild challenge on Kim Kallstrom then produced the free-kick that led to Sweden's somewhat scrappy equalizer.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the set-piece against the wall before his miscued volley fell to Mellberg, whose shot was parried by Joe Hart only to bounce off Glen Johnson and over the line.

The Scandinavians, needing a win, then went in front when Mellberg rose unmarked to head home his second goal from Sebastian Larsson's free-kick.

But England hit back when an Ashley Young corner was cleared straight to Walcott, whose 20-yard strike deceived Isaksson and flew into the middle of the net.

Substitute Walcott was then instrumental in England's third goal, racing to the byline and cutting the ball back for Welbeck to flick home a stunning backheel.

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