Old guard to the fore

France's old guard of Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira showed THERE IS LIFE in the old dogs yet as they came from behindto knock Spain out of the tournament, writes TONY CZUCZKA.

France's old guard of Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira showed there is life in the old dogs yet as they came from behind to beat Spain 3-1 in Hanover to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. On the 22nd anniversary of their European Championship final win over Spain, two late goals from Vieira and Zidane dashed Spain's dreams and set up a quarter-final clash with Brazil in what will be a repeat of the 1998 final, won by France.

David Villa had put Spain ahead from the penalty spot in the 28th minute, but Franck Ribery rounded Iker Casillas to equalise four minutes before half-time.

Vieira headed France in front seven minutes from time before Zidane sealed victory with the third in the second minute of injury time.

"We were courageous and intelligent and knew how to pace ourselves," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "The youngsters were out of breath before they were. We played fast and stopped them from playing.

"We might be a bunch of veterans but it seems to me they all know how to win a football match. Ribery was convincing with his explosive form and Zidane showed he can still turn on the pace."

"When it's Zizou who scores in the 92nd minute that's a fabulous scenario."

Zidane, who had been restored to the line-up after suspension, said France had proved a point.

"We wanted to do great things tonight to prove there's more to us than we showed in the group stages," Zidane said.

"I believe we did just that."

Spain were the better side in the first half and were rewarded for their slick passing when Lilian Thuram got too close to Pablo and referee Roberto Rosetti awarded the penalty in the 28th minute. Villa kept his cool to fire the ball into his bottom left corner and put Spain ahead.

With the recalled Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso outshining Zidane and Vieira in the midfield, Spain were in control but a lovely piece of play between Vieira and Ribery brought about the equaliser four minutes before the break.

A one-two on the edge of the box set Ribery free and the Marseille player rounded Casillas to roll the ball into the empty net.

France came out fired up after half-time and a great ball from Zidane set up Florent Malouda who tried to lob Casillas but the goalkeeper leapt well to save.

Spain brought on Joaquin for Villa and Luis Garcia for Raul, who was ineffective on his return to the starting line-up but it didn't change anything as France continued to dominate.

Ribery fired a dangerous ball into the box on the hour mark that no-one could get on the end of, while at the other end, Sagnol made a great clearance as Fernando Torres looked favourite to score.

Joaquin fired a left-foot shot just wide but after Thierry Henry was fouled by Puyol in the 83rd minute, a free-kick from Zidane was flicked on by Alonso and Vieira arrived unmarked at the far post to head in off Ramos's leg.

And as Spain chased the equaliser, they left room at the back and Zidane took full advantage to slip the ball under Casillas for France's third goal.

It was Spain's first defeat in Luis Aragones's 26-match tenure in charge. "We didn't deserve the last goal but that is football and we are going home," said a bitterly disappointed Casillas. "Maybe we relaxed after we scored."

DPA