Late second-half goals from Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane put France through to a World Cup quarter-final against Brazil with a victory over a battling Spanish side.
Vieira's close-range header eight minutes from time broke the hearts of
Spanish fans before Zidane capped a wonderful evening for Les Bleus by striking
France's third deep into injury time.
David Villa had given the Spaniards a 28th-minute lead from the penalty spot
after Lilian Thuram had bundled over Pablo inside the area before Franck Ribery
equalised shortly before half-time.
Spain promised to erase the nation's reputation as World Cup underachievers
but despite dominated the opening half they struggled to show their true
potential when it truly mattered.
Luis Aragones' second-half substitutions backfired with Luis Garcia and
Joaquin failing to inspire Spain to victory.
Raymond Domenech's side had been unconvincing in the group phase, drawing with
Switzerland and South Korea before defeating Togo to finish second in Group G,
but they never gave up and were rewarded.
They now face Brazil, a replay of the 1998 World Cup final, which saw France
come out triumphant.
Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Raul were both included in the starting XI with
the latter placed up front alongside Villa and Fernando Torres in an
attack-minded Spanish side.
Zidane returned from suspension to captain his side in what could have been
his last game had it gone against France.
Spain dominated possession in the early stages of the game and would have gone
in front had Mariano Pernia's curled free-kick not fizzed inches wide of
goalkeeper Fabien Barthez's far post.
At the other end, Thierry Henry's right-footed effort from the edge of the
area proved an easy catch for goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Spain applied pressure in midfield and surged forward but struggled to break
their rivals' well-drilled defence.
For all their superiority, Aragones' men could have trailed in the 15th minute
had Pernia not made a vital block from Zidane's bullet shot from inside the
France finally put together a good move midway though the first half, with
Zidane's long pass finding Henry at the far post, who knocked the ball into the
danger zone but both Ribery and Vieira failed to connect.
The prayers of the Spanish fans were answered soon afterwards however when
Italian referee Roberto Rosetti pointed to the penalty spot as Thuram fouled
Pablo with a clumsy challenge from behind.
Villa found the right-hand corner of the net and there was little Barthez
could do to deny Spain taking the lead.
Stunned, Les Bleus pressed forward in search of the equaliser and they got it
four minutes before the break as they finally broke the offside trap.
Vieira's perfect pass sliced Spain's defence wide open and found an unmarked
Ribery, who surged inside the area and dribbled round Casillas to slot his shot
into the back of the net.
France picked up where they left off after the restart and should have gone in
front had Casillas not made a spectacular one-handed save from Florent Malouda's
An unhappy Aragones wasted no time and made a double substitution with Luis
Garcia and Joaquin replacing Raul and Villa.
But it was their rivals who were still calling the shots, with the
ever-present Ribery delivering a testing ball towards the dangerzone but there
was no-one at the end.
On the hour mark, Eric Abidal anticipated Torres inside the box to clear
Joaquin's deadly cross from the right.
Unable to force their way through the middle Spain found a more successful
route out wide and were unlucky not to go in front in the 68th minute.
Luis Garcia latched onto Pernia's cross from the left but his header bounced
onto the ground to go high over the crossbar.
Aragones played his last card shortly after, with Marcos Senna replacing Xavi,
who had failed to make much of an impact in midfield.
Domenech brought on forward Sidney Govou for Malouda with 15 minutes remaining
but it was Spain that looked more threatening.
Joaquin's angled strike from inside the area went inches wide of the near post
while Govou tried his luck from the distance but fired off-target.
With eight minutes remaining, Carles Puyol brought down Henry to give France a
set-piece opportunity and it proved costly. Zidane floated in the free-kick
which took a deflection into the patch of Vieira whose header went in off the
leg of Sergio Ramos.
It proved a hammer blow for the Spaniards who failed to hit back and conceded
another goal in stoppage time as they pushed forward.
Zidane got past two defenders before firing towards the far post to mark a
wonderful evening for Les Bleus.