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FOOTBALL

Zidane glee as France floor Spain

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Vieira made the late breakthrough to put France in command.

HANOVER, Germany -- Two late goals from Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane gave France a 3-1 win over Spain and a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Hanover on Tuesday.

Vieira headed in at the far post in the 83rd minute and Zidane finished things off in style in stoppage time to set up a clash with holders Brazil -- a repeat of the 1998 final won by France.

Spain had opened the scoring on 28 minutes, striker David Villa firing home from a penalty after Pablo Ibanez had been fouled by Lilian Thuram.

France reacted in style four minutes from halftime when lively winger Franck Ribery raced on to a fine through ball from Vieira and rounded keeper Casillas to score his first goal for his country.

Zidane, who will be heading into retirement after the tournament, said France had confounded their doubters.

"It was a celebration today. The Spanish made it very difficult for us. The adventure continues. We were very well prepared for this match," said the 34-year-old.

"We wanted to accomplish something and show the people that we had the qualities even if in the group stage there were difficult matches."

Zidane scored twice in a 3-0 French win in the final eight years ago and he added: "That is a memory for the French people.

"But this quarterfinal has to be played. We'll be prepared for it. We're all very happy to be in it."

France coach Raymond Domenech, whose side have been written off by many as being too old, was full of praise for his team.

"It was very tough for the players. It was a remarkable match in every way. We may have a team of old men but we know how to be patient," said Domenech.

"Younger people run out of breath. There's something exceptional waiting for us, unique emotions."

Spain, eager to shake off their tag as under-achievers and to erase memories of their last competitive meeting with France, when Raul missed a last-minute penalty in a 2-1 defeat in the quarterfinals of Euro 2000, looked fresher and more imaginative throughout the first half.

Cautious start

After a cautious start from both sides, Spain were the first to threaten when left back Mariano Pernia curled a free kick just over the left upright from 25 meters on nine minutes.

France, relying on their trademark, watertight back four, showed little initiative up from until both Ribery and Vieira failed to connect with a low Thierry Henry cross midway through the half.

Everything was a place for a dramatic second-half fight after France levelled shortly before the break.

France went close in the 52nd minute when a chipped volley by Florent Malouda enabled Casillas to show his class with a spectacular one-handed save.

Luis Aragones then tried some fresh legs in an effort to break the deadlock, taking off Raul, who won his 99th cap on his 29th birthday in disappointing fashion, and Villa to make way for Luis Garcia and Joaquin.

But it was Vieira who headed in at the far post in the 83rd minute after a free kick had been deflected towards his own goal by Spain's Xabi Alonso.

Vieira's header flicked off Spain's Sergio Ramos on its way into the net.

Zidane finished things off in style in stoppage time, beating goalkeeper Iker Casillas after a swift counterattack.

Aragones was disappointed about the free kick awarded to France which led to the second goal.

Referee Roberto Rosetti blew for a foul when Henry went down after a challenge by Spanish defender Carles Puyol.

"I think their second goal came from a free kick that wasn't a foul and we were punished by a refereeing error," he said.

However, he said his team would keep improving.

"When players give everything you can't ask any more of them. They are still very young and will have another chance in the future."

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