Euro 2008: Italy knocks out France to advance

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{image-italy vs france_18062008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Zurich, June 18: World champion Italy revived its European Championship campaign Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over France in Zurich, Switzerland, to earn a place in the quarterfinals of the 16-nation soccer tournament.

The win would not have been enough to get Coach Roberto Donadoni's team into the last eight had Romania beaten the Netherlands in the day's other game in Berne. The two results were enough to send the Italians through, and they will play Spain in the quarterfinals Sunday in Vienna. "The further we go the more difficult it'll be," Donadoni said of the game against the Spanish. The coach's task will be further complicated because his two most influential midfielders will not be available. Slovakian referee Lubos Michel issued yellow cards to Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso (their second yellows of the first round) for fouls that just as easily could have been handled with a word of warning, and both players will be suspended for the quarterfinals. It was never going to be France's day, however. Coach Raymond Domenech's team has failed to live up to expectations in the tournament, and everything that could go wrong on Tuesday did go wrong. First, playmaker Franck Ribery was carried off the field on a stretcher after apparently breaking a bone in his left leg less than 10 minutes into the match when he collided with Italy's Gianluca Zambrotta.

Then, defender Eric Abidal was red-carded by Michel for a foul on Luca Toni that gave Italy a penalty kick. Pirlo made no mistake with the shot, driving the ball into the net from the spot, to make it 1-0 in Italy's favor after 25 minutes.

Abidal's ejection left France to play with 10 men for more than an hour, and things got even worse when Thierry Henry stuck out a foot and deflected Daniele De Rossi's free kick, leaving French goalkeeper Gregory Coupet stranded as the Italians doubled their lead just past the hour mark.

"The further we go the more difficult it'll be," Donadoni said of the game against the Spanish. The coach's task will be further complicated because his two most influential midfielders will not be available. Slovakian referee Lubos Michel issued yellow cards to Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso (their second yellows of the first round) for fouls that just as easily could have been handled with a word of warning, and both players will be suspended for the quarterfinals. The match was a repeat of the 2006 World Cup final, during which the French also had a player, Zinedine Zidane, red-carded and the Italians won on penalty kicks.

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