France celebrate Euro 2008 place with champagne

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CLAIREFONTAINE, France, Nov 18 (Reuters) French players and staff celebrated with a glass of champagne today after qualifying for Euro 2008 without kicking a ball.

Les Bleus are sure to finish either first or second in qualifying Group B thanks to Italy's 2-1 victory in Scotland yesterday, a result that also sent the Azzurri through.

''At lunchtime, we had a glass of champagne together,'' France coach Raymond Domenech told reporters today. ''We needed to mark the occasion, you couldn't let it go in silence.

''I'm making the most of this moment of peaceful happiness,'' he added.

The World Cup runners-up still have one match left in their qualifying campaign, in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Arsenal centre back William Gallas said: ''We are happy because we're going to be at the Euro finals and because we have qualified with one match to spare.'' Domenech said the qualification for the finals in Switzerland and Austria showed that French football now had the consistency it once lacked.

''It is normal that France play in the major international competitions every two years,'' he said.

''Then, if we can be in the final or win in the final once in a while, it's a nice bonus.'' He said that as of Wednesday the players would be vying for places in the squad for the finals.

''The preparations for Euro 2008 are starting,'' Domenech said.

REUTERS RAR RN2213

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