France v Italy, 17 June 2008

Score2-0 to Italy
RefereeĽuboš Micheľ
CompetitionUEFA European Championship Finals Group C
VenueLetzigrund, Zurich
Attendance30,585
Kick-Off: 8.45pm local Assistant referees: Roman Slyško (Slovakia) Martin Balko (Slovakia) Fourth official: Viktor Kassai (Hungary) Man of the Match: Daniele De Rossi (Italy) World champions Italy qualified for the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals in impressive fashion as they defeated France 2-0 at the Letzigrund Stadion and Romania lost by the same scoreline to the Netherlands. Romania had begun the evening second in Group C and would have progressed regardless of events in Zurich had they beaten the already-qualified Dutch. But their reverse opened the door to the Azzurri who clinically grabbed the opportunity, inflicting another painful defeat on France and condemning the FIFA World Cup finalists to last place in the section. The game's turning point arrived in the 24th minute when, after fouling Luca Toni, Éric Abidal was sent off and Andrea Pirlo converted the resulting penalty. Daniele De Rossi's second-half strike added gloss to a wonderful evening for Italy, dampened only by the yellow cards for Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso which mean they will miss the quarter-final against Spain on 22 June in Vienna. France almost handed Italy an ideal start when Toni pounced on Abidal's slip, only to shoot narrowly wide. Having started slowly in each of their first two matches, Les Bleus were keen to seize an early grip and Franck Ribéry twice fired efforts wide before, to the dismay of the France fans, the winger injured his left leg in the tenth minute and was carried off. Samir Nasri was sent on, yet France's focus appeared to waver and Claude Makelele immediately needed to clear a Christian Panucci header off the line. Italy looked menacing every time they broke and after Simone Perrotta had narrowly failed to collect Pirlo's pass, France finally cracked. Abidal fouled Toni as he bore down on goal, prompting the referee to point to the spot and brandish a red card. Pirlo made no mistake, expertly dispatching the ball into the top left-hand corner. The double blow left France reeling and despite defender Jean-Alain Boumsong replacing the unfortunate Nasri, the two-time champions were in disarray. Toni might have scored three in as many minutes before the half-hour, but after skilfully back-heeling Antonio Cassano's cross fractionally past the post, the FC Bayern München forward twice missed the target with only Grégory Coupet to beat. Thierry Henry had a chance to raise French spirits in the 34th minute but after racing on to Jérémy Toulalan's slick pass, the FC Barcelona forward directed a cross-shot past the post. With the strikers struggling to find their range, Fabio Grosso looked to show them the way just before half-time, curling a brilliant free-kick towards the bottom corner only for his Olympique Lyonnais team-mate Coupet to push it on to the post. Despite playing with ten men, France began the second period in the ascendancy, with Karim Benzema volleying over before Henry had two shots comfortably saved by Gianluigi Buffon. News that the Netherlands had opened the scoring against Romania prompted an almighty roar from the Azzurri faithful and the celebrating continued when De Rossi scored on 62 minutes. The AS Roma midfielder's 30-metre free-kick took a cruel deflection off Henry, wrong-footing Coupet and effectively ending the French challenge. Although Benzema subsequently saw his swerving shot brilliantly tipped wide by Buffon in the 74th minute, there was no way back for France, who finished with just one point after losing back-to-back matches for the first time in 15 years.

0  France

Manager: Raymond Domenech

2  Italy

Manager: Roberto Donadoni

Goals:

Goals:

Andrea Pirlo penalty 25 P
Daniele De Rossi 62 G

Starting lineup:

Goalkeeper Gregory Coupet
Defender Eric Abidal
Defender Francois Clerc
Defender Patrice Evra
Defender William Gallas
Midfielder Claude Makélélé
Midfielder Franck Ribéry
Midfielder Jeremy Toulalan
Forward Karim Benzema
Forward Sidney Govou
Forward Thierry Henry (captain)

Starting lineup:

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (captain)
Defender/Midfielder Fabio Grosso
Defender/Midfielder Gianluca Zambrotta
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi
Midfielder Gennaro Gattuso
Midfielder Simone Perrotta
Forward Antonio Cassano
Forward Andrea Pirlo
Forward Luca Toni

Substitutions:

Samir Nasri for Franck Ribéry 10
Jean-Alain Boumsong for Samir Nasri 26
Nicolas Anelka for Sidney Govou 66

Substitutions:

Massimo Ambrosini for Andrea Pirlo 55
Mauro Camoranesi for Simone Perrotta 64
Alberto Aquilani for Gennaro Gattuso 82

Cards:

Patrice Evra 18 Y
Eric Abidal 24 R
Sidney Govou 47 Y
Jean-Alain Boumsong 72 Y

Cards:

Andrea Pirlo 45 Y
Giorgio Chiellini 45 Y
Gennaro Gattuso 54 Y

On the bench:

Goalkeeper Sebastien Frey
Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda
Defender Willy Sagnol
Defender Lilian Thuram
Midfielder Lassana Diarra
Midfielder Samir Nasri
Midfielder Patrick Vieira
Forward Nicolas Anelka
Forward Bafetimbi Gomis
Forward Florent Malouda

On the bench:

Goalkeeper Marco Amelia
Goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis
Defender Andrea Barzagli
Defender/Centre back Marco Materazzi
Midfielder Massimo Ambrosini
Midfielder Alberto Aquilani
Midfielder Mauro Camoranesi
Forward Marco Borriello

Comments:

- Runners-up at the World Cup have proved far more vulnerable. France are the third World Cup runners-up in the last four European Championship finals to crash out in the group phase. They are the only nation to reach the last four at the 2006 Fifa World Cup and not reach the knockout phase at Euro 2008. - France's Eric Abidal became the third player from his country to be sent off in a European Championship match. France joins Netherlands, Russia and Serbia as nations with three dismissals in the competition. - France's Jean-Alain Boumsong received the 700th yellow card in the history of the competition.

Comments:

- Italy's triumph was their first against France in 30 years, without the need for a penalty shoot-out. Their last victory over the French dates back to the 1978 World Cup (2-1), though they did of course beat the French on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2006 World Cup final. - This ends a string of nine matches without a win against their neighbours. The only opponents Italy failed to beat in a longer sequence of matches (10) were Austria from their first match against them in 1912 until 1931. - Italy's progress means that the world champions have never been knocked out in the group phase at the subsequent European Championship.