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France make it to last 16

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June 24, 2006 03:16 IST

France finally laid to rest the ghosts of 2002 with a 2-0 victory over Togo on Friday for a place in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Les Bleus needed to win by two clear goals to make sure of avoiding an early exit after leaving the previous finals without a win or a goal from the group stage.

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France finished second behind Switzerland in Group G and play Spain in the second round in Hanover on Tuesday.

Debutants Togo, who were already eliminated, resisted bravely in the first half before collapsing by conceding two goals in quick succession in the second in Group G.

Patrick Vieira celebrated his 30th birthday in style by curling the ball into the corner of the net with his right foot after a Franck Ribery pass 10 minutes into the second half.

Vieira, who had been criticised for sluggish displays in France's first two outings, was also involved in the second goal six minutes later with a downward header from which Thierry Henry doubled the advantage with his right foot from near the penalty spot.

"It took time and it was difficult but in the end we proved competitive and reached our first goal which was to advance to the second round," Vieira told reporters.  

"It's true that, on a personal level, it's a great satisfaction. I'm feeling better and better. There is a great potential in this team and I hope this qualification will help us play more freely because we aren't bad at all."


Les Bleus' first World Cup victory since they stunned Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final means Zinedine Zidane, who missed the game through suspension, will play at least one more match.

The ageing maestro, who turned 34 on Friday, was shown his second yellow card in the tournament in a 1-1 draw with South Korea that would have been the last of his illustrious career had France failed to qualify.

It was a memorable evening also from Lilian Thuram. The seasoned defender, who is expected to retire from international football after the tournament, won his 117th cap, breaking the national record he shared with Marcel Desailly

France resolutely raced the ball forward from kickoff and threatened twice in the first 10 minutes through David Trezeguet, with an effort from inside the area that flew wide and then a header from a Ribery cross.

Togo had their moments and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was tested by Mohamed Kader Coubadja early on but the best opportunities in a lively first half were for France.

Ribery and Trezeguet wasted a few chances each before the break but the match remained scoreless at halftime.

The second half started on a slightly slower tempo but there was soon another bad miss for France, Ribery wildly hammering the ball over the crossbar from close range on 54 minutes.

France, fielding two strikers in Henry and Trezeguet for the first time in these finals, then scored twice to kill the tie and survive.

Patrick Vignal
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