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Italy made the most of France's wretched luck to move into the last eight
By Phil McNulty
Italy clinched a quarter-final meeting with Spain as they sent France crashing out of Euro 2008 with a deserved win.
France had a nightmare evening, losing key man Franck Ribery to a serious injury after only seven minutes.
Eric Abidal was then sent off after 25 minutes for fouling Luca Toni to give away a penalty, scored by Andrea Pirlo.
Thierry Henry deflected in Daniele De Rossi's 30-yard free-kick just past the hour as the world champions joined the group winners Holland in the quarters.
Raymond Domenech's side carried all the appearance of a spent force and their display will now surely herald a changing of the guard for a group of players that has enjoyed so much success.
Italy, in contrast, celebrated their recovery from an opening defeat against the Dutch to move into the last eight - although they will lose influential midfield pair Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso through suspension.
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.
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.
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