18 June 2008
SWITZERLAND – World champions Italy on Tuesday scraped into the Euro 2008 quarter-finals after beating 10-man France 2-0 in a Group C game in Zurich.
Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi scored for Italy.
The Assurri needed help from group winners the Netherlands, who beat Romania in Berne by the same score, even though they played with a second-string side.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie were the goal scorers for the Oranjes.
In Surich, two-time champions France rushed from one disaster to the next as inspirational midfielder Franck Ribery was carried off with a suspected broken leg in the seventh minute.
In the 25th minute, French defender Eric Abidal was sent off for a tackle in the area on Luca Toni, and Pirlo made no mistake from the resulting spot kick.
There was no coming back for the French, and De Rossi’s 62nd- minute goal, which deflected off French captain Thierry Henry, made no difference as the French had been all but counted out at that stage already.
French coach Raymond Domenech, who is expected to be given the boot after the defeat, refused to comment on his future straight after the match when asked by French television, and instead proposed to his girlfriend.
"I have nothing to say about my job, but I will say that I want to marry Estelle," Domenech told M6 television just moments after the defeat.
In Berne, Romania, who surprisingly went into their final game with a chance to advance to the quarter-finals, would have joined the Dutch in the next round had they won.
In a game in which Dutch coach Marco van Basten played his second string, the opening goal was scored in the 54th minute by Huntelaar from an Ibrahim Afellay cross.
Van Persie added a second three minutes from the end with a well- taken shot from inside the area, after a defence-splitting pass found him in space. The Arsenal forward went around two defenders before unleashing a powerful strike.
The victory sees the Netherlands win the group with nine points from their three victories, while Italy is second on four points. Romania had two points, while two-time champions France will return home with just one point.
Italy will face Spain in the quarter-finals, while the Netherlands will take on either Russia or Sweden.
Meanwhile, three-time champions Germany, who on Monday qualified for the quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory over Austria, might be without midfielder Torsten Frings and coach Joachim Loew in their game Thursday against Portugal.
An X-ray revealed that Frings broke a rib in the game against Austria, while Loew is tentatively suspended for one game after being sent into the stands during the game in Vienna.
UEFA announced Tuesday that Loew and his Austrian counterpart, Josef Hickerberger, who was also sent off, will submit a written statement to the UEFA disciplinary body.
"The referee will also submit a report, and then the body will decide whether to scrap the suspension, leave it or increase it," UEFA communication manager William Gaillard said.
Meanwhile, defending champions Greece, who have already been knocked out of the tournament, announced that German coach Otto Rehhagel will stay on as coach.
"We will continue together (with Rehhagel)," Greek football federation (EPO) chief Vassilis Gagatsis said.
Rehhagel sensationally led Greece to the Euro 2004 title, but the team is now out of the 2008 edition after defeats against Sweden and Russia. Their final match is Wednesday against Spain.
Gagatsis said that Greece’s main aim was to qualify for big tournaments, a goal that was achieved for Euro 2008. He said it would be easy to simply sack the coach, but the team needs continuity.
Greece’s next task is the qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup in Spain, which starts in autumn.
By Barry Whelan