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Euro 2008

World champs Italy snatch last-8 Euro berth

  • Story Highlights
  • World champions Italy defeat France 2-0 to reach last eight of Euro Champs
  • Andrea Pirlo penalty gave Italy 25-minute lead after France's Abidal is sent off
  • Daniele De Rossi's deflected 62-minute freekick clinched Italy date with Spain
  • Group C winners Netherlands beat Romania 2-0 and face Group D runners-up
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(CNN) -- World champions Italy eliminated 10-man France from the European Championships on Tuesday with a 2-0 victory in Zurich that sent them into a quarterfinal clash against Spain.

Andrea Pirlo fired Italy in front following a 25th minute penalty award that saw Eric Abidal red-carded and they wrapped up second place in Group C thanks to Daniele De Rossi's deflected 62-minute freekick.

Italy started the night bottom of their section, but Romania's dreams of going through as runners-up were destroyed by the Netherlands who maintained their 100 percent record with a 2-0 win.

However, Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso are both ruled out of the Spain game in Vienna on Sunday after picking up their second bookings of the tournament.

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said that despite the outside pressures after two successive poor results, a 3-0 defeat by the Dutch and a 1-1 draw with Romania, there had always been inner belief in the squad.

"We have never lost hope, even in the most difficult times," said the former AC Milan and Italy midfielder. "We put in a good performance and the team was cohesive and came together.

"I never had any worries about the Dutch as I know well the spirit of Marco van Basten (who was his team-mate at AC Milan)."

Despite the defeat France coach Raymond Domenech put on a brave face.

"I am proud of the players," said the 56-year-old, whose future must be in doubt even though his contract runs till 2010.

"The manner they stuck to it despite all these circumstances which are so similar to the World Cup final, lose to a penalty again and a sending-off ...

"They showed energy. They showed something, its a pity because the circumstances were against us.

"This team has something in its guts, it has qualities. We were 10 against 11 and we had also lost Ribery. This team has a real future and potential," added Domenech.

France suffered a huge blow after seven minutes when Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery was carried off after landing awkwardly on his left ankle when challenging Gianluca Zambrotta.

Marseille playmaker Samir Nasri came on as a replacement, with Ribery clearly in a lot of pain.

Moments later, Les Bleus had Claude Makelele to thank for clearing Christian Panucci's header off the line following an Andrea Pirlo corner.

The impressive Pirlo was orchestrating Italy from midfield and it was he who put the world champions in front in the 25th minute from the penalty spot with France reduced to 10-men.

Pirlo's ball down the middle to Luca Toni was inch-perfect but the striker was brought down by Eric Abidal's clumsy challenge in the box.

The Barcelona defender was the last man and was given a straight red card -- and French misery was compounded when Pirlo drove home from the spot.

Abidal had been drafted into the starting line-up in place of Barcelona defender Lilian Thuram, France's most capped player, who had reportedly asked to be left out of the side.

Abidal's sending-off forced coach Raymond Domenech into another change, Nasri -- whose substitute's appearance lasted all of 18 minutes -- being replaced by centre-back Jean-Alain Boumsong.

France were struggling to cope and Toni should have been making them pay. First, he flicked Daniele De Rossi's right-wing cross just wide and then dragged a shot off target when well placed 15 meters out.

Henry was ploughing a lonely furrow up front, with strike partner Karim Benzema now operating on the left wing. But the Barcelona striker came close to levelling the scores when he ran on to Jeremy Toulalan's through-ball before sending an angled shot just wide.

Fabio Grosso came within inches of doubling Italy's lead in the 43rd minute when Coupet brilliantly tipped the left-back's free-kick against the post.

Just before half-time, Pirlo earned a yellow card for a trip on Benzema, ruling him out of a quarterfinal with Spain.

France, who needed to win to have any chance of sealing a last-eight date with Spain, began the second half with some urgency.

Henry twice drew comfortable saves out of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, while Benzema volleyed wide from the edge of the box.

Gattuso then picked up an expensive booking for tripping Claude Makelele, ruling him out of a possible quarter-final.

A loud cheer erupted among Italy's fans when news of a Dutch goal came up on the large screen in the stadium.

They still needed to secure victory over the French, and doubled their lead after 62 minutes when De Rossi's low free-kick deflected off Henry's boot and left Coupet completely wrong-footed.

Nicolas Anelka was sent on by Domenech as a final throw of the dice, but the game was up for Les Bleus.

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