France, England advance to quarterfinals

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2004

COIMBRA, Portugal (AP) Defending champion France and England reached the quarterfinals of the European Championships on Monday, joining Portugal, Greece and the Czech Republic.

France defeated Switzerland 3-1 in one Group B game, and England beat Croatia 4-2 in Lisbon in the other. France finished atop the group with seven points and England had six.

''It's not a relief but we had to go for this victory. These three games weren't easy,'' France coach Jacques Santini said.

Zinedine Zidane gave France the lead with a header in the 20th minute, before 18-year-old Johann Vonlanthen tied it for the Swiss in the 26th minute to become the youngest scorer in European Championship history.

Thierry Henry scored the go-ahead goal with a 76th-minute tap-in after being set up by substitute Louis Saha, then added his second with a superb solo run and finish eight minutes later.

Vonlanthen scored after taking a pass from Ricardo Cabanas and slotting past Fabien Barthez. He became the youngest scorer in the competition, beating the mark set earlier in the tournament by Wayne Rooney, who scored two more goals for England on Monday. Vonlanthen, who plays for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, was born Feb. 1, 1986, about three months after Rooney.

Vonlanthen played alone up front, while fellow striker Alexander Frei sat out the match. UEFA suspended Frei for Euro 2004 on Monday for spitting at England midfielder Steven Gerrard in an earlier group B game.

In England's match, Rooney led the way for the second straight game, increasing his goal total to a tournament-leading four. Croatia jumped out to an early lead after England captain David Beckham conceded a free kick out on the left.

Milan Rapaic drove in a curling cross, which hit Ashley Cole at the far post. England goalkeeper David James managed to stop the ball from going in with a one-handed save but, in a crowded area, Niko Kovac stuck out a foot as John Terry tried to clear and scored.

Paul Scholes scored to tie the game, and Rooney added his two goals to put England up 3-1. The Everton star was taken out of the game to a standing ovation from the English fans with 19 minutes to go.

''When you see him perform, you know nothing phases him,'' Beckham said. ''He deserves all the praise that he is going to get.''

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said Rooney is more than just a goal scorer.

''I don't really know what to say he is absolutely fantastic,'' he said. ''He is not only scoring goals, he plays football. He seems to be a complete football player.''

Croatia scored again when Cole gave away a free kick on the right side and Igor Tudor leapt to head the ball in the net at the far post.

The English fans started to get nervous, but a fourth goal came in the 79th minute when substitute Darius Vassell fed Beckham, and the ball was passed on to Frank Lampard, who launched a low left footed shot past Tomislav Butina from the edge of the area.

In the quarterfinals, host Portugal faces England on Thursday, and Greece plays France on Friday.

Portugal and Greece advanced Sunday from Group A, and the Czechs booked their place Saturday in Group D.

The quarterfinalists from Group C will be decided Tuesday with Denmark, Sweden and Italy in the running. The final spot will come Wednesday from Group D between Germany, Latvia and the Netherlands.

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