Italy Resurrects Euro '08 Hopes, France Goes Out

BASEL, Switzerland -- Italy came out on top in a tense three-way tussle for a place in Sunday's Euro 2008 quarterfinal against Spain as the world champion beat 10-man France 2-0 and Romania lost by the same margin to Group C winner Netherlands.

Andrea Pirlo put Italy in front from the penalty spot in the 25th minute of the eagerly awaited repeat of the 2006 World Cup final, after Eric Abidal clattered into Luca Toni and was dismissed by Slovakian referee Lubos Michel.

Abidal's sending off was a second hammer blow for the French, after inspirational playmaker Franck Ribery was carried off on a stretcher at Zurich's Letzigrund Stadium with a knee injury.

After the match, defender Lilian Thuram, 36, and midfielder Claude Makelele, 35, announced their international retirements.

With Netherlands already leading 1-0 in Bern, Daniele De Rossi made sure of Italy's victory on 62 minutes, when his free kick was deflected into the net off the foot of Thierry Henry, standing in as captain for the injured Patrick Vieira.

The Dutch established themselves as the classiest act in a Group C full of thoroughbreds and despite fielding virtually a second-string team against Romania, won at a canter with goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie.

As Italian fans took to the streets to celebrate, coach Roberto Donadoni said he never doubted Italy would go through.

"I knew that it would turn out like this. We've got a great group that really sticks together and has the right spirit."

Italian jubilation was tempered, however, by the knowledge that Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso were both booked and will miss the Spain match.

French coach Raymond Domenech said later that his team had a future -- they have "guts, showed courage" -- but his own immediate prospects are not so clear after such an early exit.